Dogs have gone through a long process of evolution to become domesticated. And in that process, they have for the most part relinquished their howls to communicate non-verbally with us, humans. Now, the moment we look a dog in its eye is the moment a deep understanding that fosters an enduring lifelong bond of companionship.
The effect of holding eyes between dog and man can be liken to two lovers staring at each other, or a mother staring at her baby. Researchers have found that in all such cases, the ‘love’ molecule -oxytocin spikes in the bloodstream of both sides.
The first dog had split from grey wolves 33,000 years ago and scientists postulate that since then man-dog have been coevolving. Now, a dog’s love for a member in its ‘pack’ is passed on to us, and the gaze of a Terrier naturally tugs at our heartstrings. But if a wolf was to look at you that way, well, it probably wants to stop your heartstrings altogether.
Scientists once conducted an experiment for this by testing the level of oxytocin in 30 owners’ urine before and after they spent 30 minutes in a room with their dogs. The results revealed that owners whose dogs stared at them longer in the first five minutes experienced a big boost in oxytocin levels. The same occurred in the dogs. When the same experiment was conducted with wolves, it showed no sign of rising oxytocin. The wolves were completely uninterested in humans.
It makes a lot of sense, from an evolutionary standpoint, for dogs and man to have a few tools to nurture companionship with each other. Gazing has become one of those tools, effective to communicate social attachment. So next time your dog is giving you puppy eyes, it’s probably him saying, “I love you.” Or otherwise it’s “I would like a bite of that sandwich please.”
By Gray, L.