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Dogs do love their owners – ‘but it’s a parent-child relationship’

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Puppy love

Puppy love

Puppy love

Dogs have long been considered man’s best friend. But puppy love is actually less like friendship and more like the relationship between a parent and child, a scientist has suggested.

The dynamic between people and their pet canines is unique in the animal kingdom in that it is a deep emotional bond that transcends species boundaries. But scientists have long debated if real love is possible outside of people, and Dr Anna Machin, an anthropologist from Oxford University, believes it is.

“The evidence is showing more and more, particularly with dogs, that the relationship they have with their human is by any definition, a loving relationship,” she told the Cheltenham Science Festival in England.

When asked what human relationship a dog-owner dynamic most resembles, Dr Machin said it was much closer to parent-child than siblings or friends.

“There was a really interesting study on mothers, actually looking at mothers who are dog owners, and they looked at the fingerprint with their children and the fingerprint with their dog,” she said.

“[It’s] pretty much the same, intensity slightly different, which means they probably would rescue the kid first in a fire, but they’re really quite close.”

She said that in studies that have investigated the brains of dogs and owners, the organs show telltale hallmarks or “fingerprints” of love. Dr Machin said dogs had a very similar brain chemistry to humans. “Dogs definitely attach to us. There is anecdotal evidence dogs grieve when their owners die. Obviously they don’t have the reflective elements of love, as far as we know – when you dwell upon your relationship, you daydream about your relationship. I’m not sure they’re necessarily doing that. I think if they do this, they probably daydream about sausages.”

She gave another talk at the event in Gloucestershire where she said human “love drugs” were “on the horizon” which could help trigger the neurochemistry needed to rekindle or sustain love between adults. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2022)

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Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]


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