Why do ‘those eyes’ draw us in so much?
There is evidence to prove that the gaze of our pets releases the hormone oxytocin in both us as owners and in our pets.
Oxytocin is a powerful bonding hormone that is released by mothers soon after giving birth to allow the infant to suckle, as well as being produced when we fall in love and our pupils dilate out of our control as we fall into a state of utter happiness.
Being mammals, dog also experience an oxytocin rush when they look at their owners whom they adore. We tend to then offer them what they love the most – their favourite food treats.
This then results in our pets subconsciously realising how powerful just their gaze is, so they stare a bit more and as the feel-good hormone is released in our bodies; we give in and reach for another treat – causing what is called an oxytocin gaze loop!
This theory has a deeper behavioural survival significance as evidence from human studies show that the quality and quantity of individuals’ social relationships with their pets is associated not only with better mental health but also with reduced mortality. (1)Teresa Romero et al
Our pets know they will survive and live longer happier lives with this ‘happy hormone’ flooding through their systems so they gaze at us as much as they can and we know too that this social interaction with something we love so much is going to help us lead happier lives, so the long gazes with ‘those eyes’ continues!
This is part of understanding why we overfeed our pets and hopefully by explaining it, you will not give in to those loving big-eyed stares by reaching for the treats!