Study Shows That Dogs Bond With Their Humans Through Oxytocin-Increasing Eye Contact

Researchers at Azabu University in Japan have recently concluded a study in which they showed that eye contact between dogs and their humans caused increased levels of the “feel-good hormone” oxytocin in both the dog and the person, very much in the same way that human babies bond with their mothers from birth. New Scientist has reported on these findings and created an animated video that explains the study in further detail.

…Biologists Miho Nagasawa and Takefumi Kikusui, of Azuba University in Japan, wondered whether social contact between two different species could boost oxytocin levels, as well. …Kikusui’s team videotaped the sessions and measured how long a dog spent eyeing its owner. Based on the analysis, the researchers split the pairs that were allowed to play into two groups: “long gaze”, who locked eyes for an average of 2.5 minutes during the play session, and “short gaze”, who made eye contact for fewer than 45 seconds, on average. They found that these groupings reflected changes in owner’s oxytocin levels. In participants that spent a long time making eye contact, oxytocin levels rose by more than 20% during the play session, on average.