A recent study in the Society & Animals Journal showed that humans are able to show a greater level of empathy towards dogs, than they are towards human adults.
The results may not surprise dog owners out there, as many people who share their life with a canine companion describe the connection and bond they have with their pet.
Why do I feel so connected to my dog?
While historically, animal facial expressions have been considered involuntary and inflexible emotional states, a current study suggests that dogs do in fact produce significantly more facial movements when their human is attentive to them which in turn helps us form a strong connection.
Dogs are very sensitive to the emotional state of their owner, actively attempting to communicate on a regular basis. This level of connection is so rare, it's not even seen in species such as the wolf.
Why do I love my dog so much?
The love we can feel towards dogs and cats can be a life-changing experience. Our four-legged friends offer unconditional love, without judgement or criticism of their people.
We, as humans, also feel a remarkable level of empathy and compassion towards dogs. In a recent experiment, participants were presented with a fake report of an attack on both humans and dogs. Reactions were found to be determined by the age of the victim and not the species, with more empathy being shown towards a one-year-old baby, puppies and adult dogs, than towards adult humans.
Comparable levels of empathy towards a baby human and an adult dog, over human adults, lead researchers to conclude that we do in fact love our dogs as much as people.
Why do I love my dog more than people?
Feeling that you love your dog more than anything is nothing to be ashamed of. Instead, it should be celebrated, as a wonderful tribute to the bond that you share. Let's take a look at some of the reasons behind this emotion:
The love you feel is not conditional
In a world full of complex human emotion and behaviour, the love you feel for your dog is unconditional. Whether they chew your favourite cushion or wake you up at five in the morning, your dog relies and depends on you. As owners, we form the centre-point of our pet's life, which creates a unique bond of loyalty and devotion. In turn, your dog offers their companionship without judgement or criticism, just pure acceptance of the way you are.
Living with a pet releases oxytocin
Human-like modes of communication are understood by very few species in the animal world. Dogs are some of the most connected companions out there, engaging in some of the most fascinating behaviours imaginable.
Bonding in humans is often achieved through direct gaze, which is actually avoided by many non-human animals. Dogs on the other hand, are known to hold and follow eye contact, which releases oxytocin, the same hormone produced during contact with a partner or an infant. Social attachment is therefore more readily formed, creating a deep bond and feelings of love for our dogs.
Living with a dog can improve our physical and mental well-being
It'll come as no surprise to the pet owners out there, that there are numerous health benefits to living with a dog. Dog owners are believed to have a reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes, and the daily routine of walking your four-legged friend can help maintain physical fitness. Children exposed to pets in the home are also known to have a stronger immune system,
It isn't just our physical well-being that dogs can help with. They are also known to improve our mental health, reducing loneliness and anxiety.
What happens when you love your dog too much?
Some dog owners report they feel they love their dog more than their parents or their husband - and while these family members may have some thoughts on the subject - feeling that you love your dog more than people is nothing to be ashamed of. Just be sure to balance the level of attention and interaction you give, with healthy time apart. This will help avoid separation anxiety from developing in the long-term.