Fascinating news for dog lovers on the week we celebrate International Dog Day!
Yes, you heard that right: our canine companions love us so deeply they cry when we come home. As if we needed another reason to love them more than we do, yet here it is. We know that there are many mental health benefits to humans of having a dog, but it also seems that dogs feel similarly. Their tears are a sign of interspecies bonding and are directly linked to their emotions.
For your eyes only!
The study, which was carried out in Japan, found that dogs’ tears were stimulated by their emotional response to seeing their owner after a period of absence. The tears didn’t flow with other familiar humans, only the owner! Just incredible that we share such a bond with our dogs.
The purpose of dog tears
But, the tears are not without their purpose as with most physiological responses. We already know that tail-wagging, gazing and licking can create positive responses in dog owners. This makes them more likely to nurture and protect. Tears have a similar function and after millenia of dog/human bonding, nature has provided dogs with the physiological and psychological tools to gain protection from us.
Here comes the science…
How did the researchers come to these conclusions? Well, they used the Schirmer Tear Test to measure dogs’ tears of reunions with their owners and familiar non-owners. They also tested the tear volume by adding oxytocin (the love hormone) to the dogs’ eyes, suggesting that oxytocin increases the likelihood of teary eyes (it’s an emotional, love response). They also tested humans with photos of dogs with teary and non-teary eyes and found that humans are more likely to react and respond positively to teary-eyed canines! There we have it, tears enhance the human-dog relationship.
Why are dog tears so groundbreaking?
This is the first study to conclude that a non-human animal produces tears to elicit a positive response from their caregivers (us). As we know, dogs have very flexibly and intelligently evolved with us and have developed certain behaviours and movements to communicate effectively with their caregivers. Don’t we all know it? Those looks that we get tell us everything we need to know. Tear production is the newest behaviour to join that list and this recent study proves it.
So next time you leave your dog to go on holiday, you might notice when you return that as you shed a little tear of joy, they may well do as well. We have a mutually beneficial relationship with our furries and what better news to arrive as we celebrate International Dog Day. Mutual respect and mutual love are the foundations for any great relationship and the more we carry that out with our dogs, the better.