• Claire

Valentines Day for Dogs

Updated: Nov 5, 2018

With Valentines Day approaching and adverts a-plenty about what to buy, where to date, what to do if your single, I thought about our incurable love for our pets, where it comes from and why we love them so much. There has been much research recently to suggest that we love our pets more than we love adult humans!

According to two studies, we’re more likely to empathise with struggling dogs than people in difficulty. Medical research charity Harrison’s Fund conducted an experiment two years ago to test whether people were more likely to donate money to help dogs or humans, and they concluded it’s the former. The researchers printed two adverts, both of which posed the question: “Would you give £5 to save Harrison from a slow, painful death?” The only difference between the adverts was the picture - one featured Harrison as a little boy, the other as a dog. And it was Harrison the dog who received the most donations.

Only humans keep pets! So why do we do it?

“It really is an amazing question,” said Clive Wynne, director of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University.

"This love story started with dogs, our most ancient animal companions. Analysis of dog and wolf genomes, along with numerous discoveries of ancient bone, suggests that humans domesticated our canine friends somewhere between 13,000 and 30,000 years ago." Wynne thinks it's likely that the animals started out as wolves that scavenged from human garbage pits; those willing to get closer to people got more food, and they evolved to become tamer over time. Eventually, humans felt comfortable around dogs — and dogs liked being around us — enough that we took them into our homes and recruited them for our hunts.

It’s really only in the last couple of thousand years that we have kept dogs as pets rather than domesticated animals, and dogs began to be able to relate to humans in meaningful social ways. They became attuned to our social cues in the way that young children are. Then people got involved, selectively breeding the cutest, cuddliest and most cooperative creatures until we got the pets we know today.

More recently, Scientists have discovered humans love their pet dogs in the same way as they do their children, and the feeling is mutual. Researchers found that the same hormone, oxytocin, spikes in both human and canine brains when a dog is gazing at its owner.

Oxytocin is known to play a strong role in triggering feelings of unconditional love and protection when parents and children look into each other’s eyes or embrace.

So the findings suggest that owners love their pets in the same way as family members, and dogs return their devoted affection.

​Some dog owners love their four-legged friends so much that they even say they prefer them to some friends and family. And according to new research, there's a scientific reason why.

A study published in the journal Society & Animals found that people are more empathetic towards dogs than fellow humans. "Subjects did not view their dogs as animals, but rather as 'fur babies,' or family members alongside human children," the researchers concluded, showing how people often think of their pets as part of the family.

A study published in the journal Scientific Reports found one reason we're so attached to our dogs is they make more facial movements when a human is paying attention to them.

It was previously thought that animal facial expressions were purely unconscious, but the study found that dogs raise their eyebrows and even make their eyes bigger when they are looking for attention from a person. The research tells us that their facial expressions are probably responsive to humans — not just to other dogs. That tells us something about how domestication has shaped dogs, and that it has changed them in order to be more communicative with humans.

Maybe that's all there is to it: Humans are programmed to love soft and helpless things.

Anyone who has experienced getting a puppy knows it can be hard work. Owners often refer to their pets as "fur babies," which makes a lot of sense considering how much attention puppies require when you first get them.

Puppies need time to settle into their new home and bond with their owners. They've probably just been taken from their mothers and introduced to a brand new environment, so there's likely to be a lot of crying. And that's before you can even think about house-training.

As it turns out, some companies sympathise with this transition and offer what's known as "pawternity leave." In fact, research from Petplan found that 5% of owners have been offered paid leave from their job to adjust to their pet owning duties.

These are some of the companies which give you a few days off to bond with your new best friend.

Scottish brewery company BrewDog has just started offering a week of paid leave. The reason given on the BrewDog website is that they just really love dogs. Also, it aims to be "the best company to work for, ever."

Mars Petcare was one of the first companies to offer pawternity leave. The company offers its employees ten hours of paid leave when they get a new pet and they can bring them into the office after that.

Hats off to them for providing the opportunity for a perfect start in a dogs life and with more and more "Dog friendly holiday" companies making destinations so much more accessible it's easier than ever to keep our furry companion with us at all times and included in everything we do as a family; There are some really cool things out there for us to buy for our beloved dogs for Valentines day too, it's no wonder we are called the Nation of Pet Lovers!

We want dogs to get the best out of life!

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