According to Dr. James Serpell, the bond between humans and their four-legged besties can be traced back to the time of the cavemen. Even back then, nomads and hunters sought out dogs and wolves as companions, and were drawn to the ones who were most sociable. Today, the connection between human owner and pet dog runs deep. Ask anyone who’s had to part ways with their furry companion, either due to old age or other circumstances. The pain is like that of losing a child.
So, in honor of National Best Friends Day, celebrated June 8, let’s uncover some proof that dogs can live up to the title of “Man’s Best Friend.”
They’re our helpers.
Working dogs can help with tasks such as herding and hunting, but we can’t overlook the job a pet dog does in the home. Need notification there’s someone at the door? Your dog’s got you covered. Need motivation to get out and walk? Your pooch won’t let you get lazy. Feeling lonely when your spouse is traveling for work? Your furry friend is all too happy to cuddle up and keep you company. And those pesky crumbs that seem to always take up residence under the highchair? They don’t stand a chance when man’s best friend is around. Best vacuum cleaner ever.
They play an integral part in our family.
Many studies have shown that there is a real emotional connection that occurs when people stare into the eyes of their dog. Victoria Schade, certified dog trainer, speaker, and author, says dogs can actually read our facial expressions. Don’t believe her? Try this: Look at your dog and smile. 9 times out of 10, you’re going to get a tail wag in response. Dr. Carlo Siracusa, a clinical assistant professor of behavior medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, explains that relationships between humans and dogs are not too different than relationships between humans and other humans. “If I’m friends with someone and I know when [that person] is really, really, really upset, I tend to be very cautious. It’s exactly the same thing for dogs.” In other words, if you want your dog to listen to you, put on a happy face.
They’re the best encouragers.
Recently, my husband wasn’t feeling well and I caught our golden helping herself onto the couch next to him to rest her head in his lap. When I reprimanded her, my husband said, “It’s ok, she’s taking care of me.” Aren’t they the best nurses? A 2015 study published in the journal, Science, revealed that oxytocin (the love hormone) levels rose in humans and dogs after they looked into each other’s eyes during a 30 minute period. Another study showed that dogs recognize their owner’s facial expressions and make decisions based on those expressions. Dogs don’t just recognize our happy faces, they can sense when we feel sad, anxious, and even unwell. And they’re more than happy to cheer us up.
Just remember, this friendship goes both ways, and you get out of a relationship what you put into it. Take the time to consider how your dog is feeling, and to give him some of that love and affection you crave from him. Happy National Best Friends Day!