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Dogs & People

April 20, 2015

Eye contact between dogs and their owners can increase levels of the hormone oxytocin, known for its important role in human bonding.



Teresa Alexander-Arab flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

(Teresa Alexander-Arab/flickr/Creative Commons License BY-ND 2.0)

Our ancient canine bond. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Eye contact between a mother and her infant has been shown to increase her levels of the hormone oxytocin, which is known to promote bonding. But there’s growing evidence that oxytocin may also play a role in solidifying our relationships with our dogs. Duke research scientist Evan MacLean says friendly interactions between people and dogs increase oxytocin levels in both species. Now, Japanese researchers report in the journal Science that eye contact between dogs and their owners has the same effect.

EVAN MacLEAN (Duke University):

And what’s really cool is that there was this bidirectional process where the oxytocin changes in dogs and humans moved in parallel with each other.


MacLean says wolves raised with humans don’t elicit the same response. The findings suggest that dogs have been taking advantage of our parental tendencies since they first started to diverge from wolves thousands of years ago. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.