Now, what I am about to tell you must be taken as a mere suggestion. This may be the most mind-blowing discovery since the invention of the Selfie stick, but I must remind you that I'm just reporting on separate but specific situations concerning specific sets of people that each belongs to a specific set of factors. All research studies are mere suggestions. Therefore, they are never absolute and should be researched further through various shifts in variables (factors that may have an effect on the results of an experiment, like the people, their age, where they are from, the breeds of dogs involved, the relationships between the dogs and the people involved).
But, how awesome is it to think that you may be cuddling with a supernatural being? Bet you'd share some of that human food you're snacking on now, wouldn't you?
Fellow researcher – because we are all researchers in this endless journey of questions we call life – Miho Nagasawa of Japan's Abazu University suggests that evolution may have caused dogs to engage us in what scientists are calling a bonding mechanism. To avoid confusion through the specialized language professionals love to throw at us, we will start with a SparkNotes version of the study: through centuries of domesticating dogs into our pets, we have adapted to each other in a way that causes our brains to release certain chemicals that specialize in making us feel love. Yes, Nagasawa's study suggests that dogs are basically Voldemort's *VERY MINOR SPOILER ALERT FOR THE "HARRY POTTER" SERIES* mother (she used a love potion to get her future husband to marry her, thus leading to the creation of the vile man we all grew up despising to the core).
They call it a mechanism because it contains multiple parts that contribute to the overall function of something even greater than itself: the greatest relationship humanity has seen since peanut butter and jelly were introduced to each other. Therefore, this magical power that seems to come straight out of a poorly produced X-Men movie, which will eventually be completely undone by future additions to the franchise, starts a chain reaction that causes us to want to interact with them more.
Think about a time where you looked at your puppy for what seems like a second, before you instantly transport right in front of them, stroking the comfortingly soft fur you know and love. According to this study, that sudden urge to interact with your puppy is actually caused by their gaze on purpose, which can now be assumed to have the aforementioned magical powers (yes, I will continue to say puppy because age is just a number and all dogs will remain puppies for the sake of any dog owner's sanity).
As a result of the loving gestures, your dog will theoretically (as in: supposedly, through a small shred of evidence) experience a similar love spell. This back-and-forth exchange of love serum ultimately reflects a positive feedback loop wherein a certain stimulus (something that causes a specific action) causes the production of the magic. The loop is defined by the resulting production of love juice that is also a stimulus for yet even more love, but, this time within your dog's internal mechanism. Although this may seem like a plot from JK Rowling's next book, Nagasawa's claims have some solid evidence. There is a driving force behind all of this that really put things in a somewhat logical sense if you understand anatomy. However, if you're like the majority of the college population and don't understand anatomy all that well (or even if you're just curious), keep reading!
You're probably wondering: what is this love potion that constantly drives my uncontrollable obsession with puppies? Well, the answer is something you've experienced from the moment your mom held you: Oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone that tells a newborn version of yourself that they love their mother. Seriously, I don't joke when to comes to medical concepts! There is a hormone that signals your brain in such a way that you register what we call love. Therefore, that warm fuzzy feeling you get when your mom hugs you, or your significant other hugs you, is actually a sensation relating to oxytocin. If you don't want to take the word of a fifth-year Health Sciences major, then just visit my friends at the Hormone Health Network – they actually have a cool name (I'm sorry that my parents weren't that creative).
To bring this conversation back into what matters, those beautiful companions whose undying loyalty proves we don't deserve the graces of their presence, close your eyes and picture someone you love dearly. Now, look into a time that this person wrapped their arms around you as they brought you to a proximity that encourages only warmth and comfort. Knowing that this warmth is oxytocin, apply the concept to a situation wherein you looked into the purity of a dog's gaze.
Those big, open abysses of pure ecstasy call you. They beg for you to do what nature demands: forge a relationship that resists all temptations (except for a juicy steak or anything that catches a dog's sense of appetite really). As this momentous occasion unfolds, oxytocin ensures that the next step for you is to engage in a playful and nurturing interaction. So, for all of those haters on social media that try to deny love, remember to bring up oxytocin because there's no way it's just a coincidence that we experience increases in the substance in the presence our mothers, significant others, and our puppies.
With all of this information, we can now put the pieces together to truly envision Nagasawa's proposed bonding mechanism:
- (1) You look into an innocent gaze that begins to excite every cell in your body.
- (2) Unbeknownst to you- until today- your brain releases Oxytocin in response to the endless abyss the beyond your puppy's pupil.
- (3) The release of oxytocin triggers even more signals towards other regions of your brain.
- (4) As these regions receive the signals, you begin to subconsciously register love.
- (5) Love compels you to embrace your superpowered canine with as much affection as possible.
- (6) Your love and affection the triggers your dog's brain to release oxytocin.
- (7) Oxytocin's release completes one cycle in the positive feedback loop that promotes coexistence.
As stated previously, Nagasawa's "findings" are limited to the specific conditions of his experiment. Any alterations to a single factor may change the data completely. Therefore, his conclusions are mere speculation. We still don't know with complete certainty that evolution really led us to a way that promotes love between us and dogs. In fact, we will probably never really know.
That is where research comes in. We will need more studies that test the same variables here, as well as different variables across the board. This can really help bring more details to light that may increase, or decrease, the chances of Nagasawa's findings being certain. Therefore, more studies must be made. Studies can be isolated to specific breeds, different relationships between dogs and owners, as well as the differences between differing household roles, such as a study that answers the following question: how will oxytocin levels different between the dog and a father versus the dog and a son? This can really let us know just how super our dogs really are.
If there is one thing to take home from this reading, its most definitely this: love potion or not, your puppy is a blessing, and they must be cherished forever.