How Deep Is the Love for Our Dogs?

The connection between people and dogs is the stuff of legend.
Photo by andres chaparro / pexels

Greece, India, Sumatra, Egypt, Scotland, Turkey, China: cultures around the world abound in cynocephalic heroes or gods, individuals with the body of a human and the head of a dog (or sometimes a jackal). The existence of a word to describe such phenomena speaks to how common they are. Though other mythical human/animal chimeras are known—the centaur and minotaur, for example—none are as widespread as those involving canines. This depiction of creatures with the traits of both humans and dogs attests to the longstanding idea that we are connected. We are, it seems, naturally predisposed to form deep connections with dogs.

Chemical systems responsible for the most powerful feelings between humans are also activated by our interactions with dogs. This means that physiologically speaking, we bond with our dogs in the same way we do with our children: through a positive feedback loop involving oxytocin, a hormone involved in many aspects of social behavior.

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