“AND THEY CALLED IT PUPPY LOVE LA LA LOVE“. This Valentine’s Day, dog owners in Britain are celebrating their love for their pets. It is expected that sales of cards and gifts for dogs will increase. According to studies, pets offer a pure and simple form of companionship, meeting humans’ natural need for close relationships. In addition to emotional benefits, scientific evidence shows that dogs contribute to human health. They help in reducing stress levels, and promoting overall well-being, emphasizing the unique and unconditional companionship they provide.
They call it ‘puppy love’, and this Valentine’s Day dog owners will be celebrating their affections with their pooches. Research suggests that card sales are set to boom for Britain’s pups, revealing an estimated one per cent of the millions of consumers who buy cards for their special person are now also doing so for their dogs. In addition, Britain’s biggest pet retailers suggest that dog owners spend an average of £30 on Valentine’s presents for the four-legged love of their life.
Psychology Today states that humans have an innate need to form close relationships for survival. This basic instinct is what drives people to develop close relationships – and those relationships extend to our furry friends. Unlike human relationships, which can be complex and fraught with expectations, our pets offer a simple, pure form of companionship.
One of the primary reasons we become so emotionally attached to our pets is the unconditional love and acceptance they provide. It’s mutually beneficial with science highlighting dogs help with our health, lowering our blood pressure, reducing our stress levels, and offering us a gateway to the outdoors. It is said that dog owners can live longer and smile more than non-dog owners! On average, women tend to have more positive attitudes toward dogs as opposed to men. Yet studies have demonstrated that both benefit from the mutual release of the love hormone Oxytocin. In the same way, breastfeeding mothers receive an Oxytocin ’hit”, simply stroking your dog releases this happy hormone, and this is correlated with one reason we form such a strong social bond with our dogs.
Take a look at ‘How Your Dog Can Make a Difference to Your Mental Health‘ to discover the strong bond between humans and dogs.
It’s also to do with dogs’ emotional intelligence which was once doubted by science, which adds to our close epigenetic evolution over thousands of years. It’s interesting to note that dogs are born understanding what pointing’ means, whereas chimpanzees do not understand this physical ‘cue’. As a result of this physical and social evolution, dogs respond to social cues common to humans. Dogs quickly learn the meaning of words, show cognitive bias and exhibit emotions that seem to reflect those of their humans. Whilst it’s important not to consider your dog as a ‘little’ human in a furry suit, their perception of human body postures, including facial expressions is combined with dogs’ ability to sniff the fluctuating levels of cortisol in our system. This enables dogs to respond to us with great intuition and emotional intelligence.
But is this just ‘cupboard’ love? The great advancements in medical science like MRI scans confirm that part of the canine brain is associated with positive emotions and they do, indeed, feel love for their human companions. Some studies suggest that the grief we feel on losing our beloved pets shows that the connection we feel for them might be stronger than the ones we feel for human family members. Love me love my dog! At the end of the day, dogs don’t judge us, never answer us back or lie to us. In fact, they are the key source of loyal companionship that many people crave.
As a Canine Nutrition and Behaviour expert, Anna combines her psychology degree, with study at the College of Integrated Veterinary Therapies (CIVT) and over 20 years of experience. Host of the award-nominated A DOG’S LIFE podcast, she lives in London and is owned by Prudence, a Miniature Bull Terrier and Mr. Binks, a re-homed English Toy Terrier. www.annawebb.co.uk