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Oxytocin-gaze positive loop and the coevolution of human-dog bonds

The Science Summary

Human-like modes of communication, including mutual gaze, in dogs may have been acquired during domestication with humans. We show that gazing behavior from dogs, but not wolves, increased urinary oxytocin concentrations in owners, which consequently facilitated owners’ affiliation and increased oxytocin concentration in dogs.

Further, nasally administered oxytocin increased gazing behavior in dogs, which in turn increased urinary oxytocin concentrations in owners. These findings support the existence of an interspecies oxytocin-mediated positive loop facilitated and modulated by gazing, which may have supported the coevolution of human-dog bonding by engaging common modes of communicating social attachment.

The Layperson Summary

  • Eye contact between humans and dogs triggers a surge in 'love homrone'

  • Oxytocin also plays a role in mother-baby bonding after birth

  • Dogs are thought to have developed the mechanism when they became domesticated 30,000 years ago

  • Such evolutionary behaviour has made dogs man's best friend ever since

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