The human-canine bond: A tale of love and brain chemistry

It’s a love story that’s existed for thousands of years.

The bond between humans and dogs runs deep; in fact, dogs can read human gestures better than pretty much any other species, including other primates such as chimps, according to National Geographic.

It’s this complex emotional and chemically-bound bond between humans and our canine companions that is explored in What’s a Dog For? by John Homans, an excerpt of which is featured in The Week.

In the excerpt, Homans explores how dogs fit comfortably into our lives and the potential medical (yes, you read correctly) benefits of sharing our space with them. For example, the book cites a 2009 study that found increased oxytocin levels in humans after interacting with their dogs. Oxytocin is a major hormone and plays a significant role in bonding, including spending time with loved ones, furry and four-legged or not.

Additionally, the study found the longer owners and their pets gazed at each other, the higher the oxytocin levels. The hormone also helps reduce stress and induce calmness, which can help keep humans healthier in the long run (stress increases the risk of certain health problems, such as heart disease). In short, having dogs may be good for your health.

Humans also socially interact with their dogs a lot (a recent study cited in the book indicates almost all dog owners talk to their pets) and almost just as many considered their dogs as part of their family.

To read the full excerpt from The Week, click here.

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