Why Your Dog is Your Furbaby

Anyone who owns a dog and is a normal human being knows very well how important dogs are in our lives and how dogs are often “better people than people.”  There is no kind of love as unconditional as that of a dog for his/her owner.  Dog owners also intuitively understand that dogs have very complex thoughts and emotions, just like humans.  In honor of this Saturday’s public program “Basic Dog Care” at the Main Library, this post is about the human-canine bond and why there are scientific reasons that your dog is your “furbaby.”
Humans began domesticating dogs 18,000-32,000 years ago, and that led to a practice called “alloparenting,” or the adoption of and caring for another species.  This happens in many species- you have probably all seen the viral images of the monkey that adopted a kitten and the library even owns a book of photographs of such relationships.  In a PLoS ONE study, scientists measured the brain activity of mothers when they viewed images of their own children and their own dogs, versus when they viewed images of other people’s children and dogs.  Brain activity was much higher when viewing the images of their own children and dogs versus the strangers’.  Also, similar areas of the brain associated with reward, emotion, and affiliation were active when viewing the images of their children and their dogs.  However, a certain region of the mid-brain associated with reward and affiliation was more active when viewing images of their child, and a different region of the brain called the fusiform gyrus that recognizes expressions and emotions was more active when viewing images of their dog.  According to the study, these results demonstrate that the bond a mother has with her child and her dog share aspects of emotional experience and brain function, but the differences in brain activity have to do with human and canine evolution.
So on that note, if you have a furbaby or just like dogs in general, come to our program this Saturday at 3:00!  Also check out our book display on basic dog care at the Main Library.

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