For many of us, our dogs are like members of our families. We treat them with kindness and love, and spend more on their health and getting them food and toys than some people in other countries spend on their children. That’s okay, when you consider that your dogs are more like your kids than you might think.
What are some ways that dogs are like children?
According to a report publicized in PLOS ONE, one of the main ways dogs and children are similar is that both share the same mental response to dependency.
The Vetmeduni’s Messerli Research Institute’s Lisa Horn decided to closely investigate the dog-owner dynamics to see whether dogs are like children.
The report detailed an experiment conducted at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna.It showed that dogs and children both share a “secure base effect.”
This means that both dogs and children rely on a nurturing figure in order to communicate with the outside world.
Both dogs and children rely to a large extent on nonverbal forms of communication, like body language and sounds. n the case of humans, the sounds can be crying, moaning, gurgling, and cooing; dogs rely on howls, barks, whimpers, and growls, among other sounds.
The experiment in the study tested three types of owners of dogs: “absent owners,” “silent owners,” and “encouraging owners.” The dogs were able to earn food rewards if they manipulated interactive dog toys that were in the room in specific ways.
Dogs who had to deal with or confront an “absent owner,” were the least likely to work for their treats. If they were presented with an encouraging owner who gave them treats, their motivation levels were higher.
When the owners were replaced by complete strangers, the dogs were not very interested in earning their treats. They were far more likely to earn their treats if their owners were present.
Both dogs and children heavily depend on their caretakers to nurture and care for them, trusting them with complete control. This is a factor that builds up the loyalty that exists between dogs and humans.
Another way that dogs and children are similar is that the research shows the emotional dependency both dogs and children have with their caretakers. Both do what they can to please the person taking care of them, and both strive when they are being encouraged by a loved one.
What are some of the health benefits of owning a dog?
This relationship could be an important reason why the American Heart Association (AHA) said pets can reduce the risk of heart disease:
Pet ownership is an important nonhuman form of social support and may provide cardioprotective benefits in patients with established cardiovascular disease.”
Some of the other health benefits of owning a dog (or any pet), according to studies conducted by the AHA, are that having a pet can increase physical activity, boost favorable lipid profiles, lower systemic blood pressure, improve autonomic tone, diminish sympathetic responses to stress, and improve survival after acute coronary syndrome.
Your dogs are more like your kids than you might think, but you don’t have to worry about them borrowing your car keys or getting body piercings. Show them both love and prove by your actions that you care for them, and they will pay you back in kind.
Written by: Douglas Cobb