For a long time scientists have been saying that dogs don’t actually “love” their owners but that the bond is based on food and security. Even many dog behaviourists keep telling us to treat our dog like a dog because it can’t have human emotions. But these theories are being turned upside down with new research into how dog’s brains work.
A research project is currently being undertaken in Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, by Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist, doing fMRI scans on dogs. Berns worked with a dog trainer to teach Callie, a nine-month-old rescue dog, and McKenzie, a three-year-old collie, to happily lie in a MRI machine without sedation, and said: “We can really begin to understand what a dog is thinking rather than infer it from their behaviour.”
What Berns and his team have shown is, that a part of the brain associated with positive emotions, was similar in dogs and humans. These findings could indicate that dogs can empathise with human emotions and experience love and affection in a similar way to humans. “MRIs don’t prove that animals have emotions – we already know they do. But MRIs can show us how and where in the brain these emotions occur. And the closer we look, the more we see in common with our own brains.”
Now that we know scientifically what we’ve always known in our hearts… what is the best way to love your dog on Valentine’s day?
Do Not buy him a big beautiful box of Valentine’s chocolates! Remember dogs can’t eat chocolate. Instead of that maybe see if you have a pet bakery nearby where you can pick up a special treat for your furry Valentine.
As people we show affection with lots of hugs and kisses, but most dogs don’t really enjoy being hugged. They learn to tolerate it from their special person, and a few may come to like it. A better way to show affection physically is to gently stroke your dog as this is similar to the way they nuzzle and nudge each other. A gentle chest scratch and ear rub will also be enjoyed.
Why not take your dog on a Valentine’s date? If your dog has a favourite place to walk, or park to play in, or river to paddle in, take him there for some special one-on-one time. Or take him along on a long hike to explore a place you’ve never been, or for a long scenic drive if he’s one of those dogs who goes crazy for a ride in the car.
A pooch pamper session is another idea. Many dogs really enjoy being groomed. Just as they groom each other as a way of bonding, so you can strengthen your bond with an extra special grooming session.
If you don’t have any plans of your own for the evening, finish off the day with an extra-long play session, maybe with a new toy or teaching a new trick. Then just enjoy some quiet bonding time together. Put on your favourite movie, dig into your own lovely box of Valentine’s chokies, with your special dog curled up on the couch next to you, or resting contentedly at your feet.
Your dog won’t know it’s all about Valentine’s Day, but he will be happy that you spoilt and loved him a bit extra for the day!Author Profile: Linda owns and writes for www.happyhealthydogblog.com