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Why Are We Fascinated by Puppy-Dog Eyes?

Have you ever asked yourself why you get that heart-melting feeling when you gaze into those cute puppy dog eyes? Animal behaviorists from Azabu University in Sagamihara, Japan, attempt to uncover and explain our fascination with the famous canine stare.

Humans interact with dogs through eye contact. While wolves interpret this as a sign of hostility, eye contact means understanding, affection and communication for dogs. So what does eye contact have to do with it?

Studies show that eye contact is closely related to the production of oxytocin in our brains. The hormone promotes the development of trust and altruism. In the case of an infant and the mother, oxytocin levels rise as the mother and child hold their gaze at each other’s eyes. Even though the baby is not yet capable of other forms of demonstrative expression, a loving and affectionate relationship is formed. And it’s all because of eye contact.

Taking that concept in human-canine interaction, the Japanese animal behaviorists suggested that their same hormonal mechanism might be the driving force in the affectionate bond between man and dogs.

For this study, researchers observed 30 dog owners interacting with their pets (some of them are pet wolves) for about 30 minutes. During the interaction period, pet owners were free to pet and talk to their canines. At most times, dogs and their owners made eye contact while wolves rarely did with their humans.

After obtaining urine samples, researchers discovered a 130-percent increase in oxytocin levels among the dogs while the humans had a 300-percent surge during this eye contact experiment. For pets and humans that did not make considerable eye contact, no oxytocin rise was detected.


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