Our faithful companions have long provided us with love and friendship and now they also have demonstrated an increase in the hormone oxytocin in our brain. Researchers in Japan studied eye contact between dogs and their owners and both dog and owner had elevated oxytocin levels after a soulful gaze into each others eyes. Oxytocin is the hormone associated with nurturing and bonding, similar to the relationship between parent and child. The researchers reported that through domestication, dogs came to find humans as their most important social partners.
In contrast to domesticated pets, animals in the wild tend to view eye contact as a threat. The researchers attempted to measure eye contact between wolves and humans and there was no evidence of eye contact or of elevated oxytocin levels. In addition to reducing our blood pressure and lowering our pulse rate, this is another example of how our relationship with our pet improves our overall mental and physical health.