SEATTLE, WA – February 4, 2020 – Rover.com, the world’s largest and most trusted network of five-star pet sitters and dog walkers, released its Anatomy of Dog Love report today, which explores the bond between humans and dogs. In honor of Valentine’s Day, the report dives into the science behind why dogs and humans love each other and presents new data on how pets impact our romantic relationships.
The new report revealed that the vast majority (95%) of pet parents believe their dogs love them, and owners plan to show their love in return this Valentine’s Day, with many buying their dogs gifts (62%) or taking their dogs out on a date (25%). Scientific research reveals that this love doesn’t go unnoticed by our dogs. In fact, dogs can sense people’s emotional connection to them, including how a person feels about them.1 In addition to understanding hand movements, breathing, body movements, the volume and cadence of the voice, they can discern if they are loved.
According to Phil Tedeschi, clinical professor at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work, Institute for Human-Animal Connection and member of Rover’s Dog People Panel, humans and dogs both have neuro-biological needs for interpersonal connections, within their own species and with other animals. Through thousands of years of interaction, humans and dogs have co-evolved strategies for connection. This has cemented our bond and, as in any loving relationship, we seek to understand each other. For dogs, that means observing our physical presence and emotional changes, to be able to connect with and understand humans.
“The more I study and learn about dogs the more I have realized their capacity for deep and loving attachment and the importance of us, as a people, reciprocating that responsiveness and love in return,” says Tedeschi. “Our dogs can teach us how to have healthy relationships, deeper connections, be more attentive to one another and become trustworthy companions. They can teach us to love.”
A Dog’s Love Language
The Anatomy of Dog Love report found that most pet parents think their dogs show love through cuddling or snuggling, body language or excitement when they come home. And, according to the science, these are in fact strong indicators of a dog’s affinity for a person:
- Proximity & Touch – Studies on the human-dog bond found that gentle touching and nuzzling mimics the maternal and nurturing family affection dogs receive as puppies. Touching elicits the hormone oxytocin, which creates feelings of attachment and a sense of well-being.2, 3
- Gazing – Dogs look for opportunities to make eye contact, or gaze, to solidify their bond with a person. A 2015 study showed that gazing stimulates bonding and oxytocin, or “the love hormone,” for a dog.4
- Body language – According to research, dogs use play to express friendship and love, so body language, like a play bow is an invitation to sharing in a highly valued activity and loving ritual. If a person responds by starting to play, a dog gets the message of connection, safety and love.5
- Facial Expressions – Dogs have evolved to be expressive beings to better connect with humans. A 2017 study revealed that dogs change their expressions and utilize muscles only domesticated dogs have, which allows them to have greater connectedness with humans.6
The Anatomy of Dog Love: Survey Findings
“Valentine’s Day is a moment to celebrate love, and what purer love is there than the bond we share with our pets. Our research on dog owners revealed that pet parents see their dogs as great judges of character, a way they connect with their partners and as stepping stones to building a family,” said Kate Jaffe, trend expert for Rover. “Overall, pets have a significant impact on who we date and how we feel about them.”
Dogs + Dating
- Nearly half of all dog owners agree that they would only be in a relationship with a dog person.
- One in five pet parents say they have stayed in a relationship longer because of their partner’s dog.
- 72% of pet parents are likely to click on someone’s dating profile if there is a dog in the picture.
You, Me and Doggy
- Most (61%) dog people believe that being a pet parent impacts the health of their romantic relationship.
- Half of pet parents in relationships agree that they spend more time as a couple now that they have a dog.
- 71% of pet parents in relationships say they are more attracted to their partner after seeing how they care for their dog.
- 86% of dog people in a relationship agree that having a dog makes them feel more like a family.
- Two in three dog owners say they have more confidence in their parenting skills since owning a dog; most pet parents (67%) are also more confident in their partner’s parenting skills after owning a dog.
To review the comprehensive report findings, visit: https://www.rover.com/blog/valentines-day-dog-love
The Anatomy of Dog Love report is based on a survey of 1,500 U.S dog owners conducted by Rover in January 2020 via Pollfish.
1 Odendaal, J.S., Meintjes, R.A., 2003. Neurophysiological correlates of affiliative behaviour between humans and dogs. Vet. J. 165, 296–301.
2 Miho Nagasawa, Shouhei Mitsui, Shiori En, Nobuyo Ohtani, Mitsuaki Ohta, Yasuo Sakuma, Tatsushi Onaka, Kazutaka Mogi, Takefumi Kikusui,* Science 17 Apr 2015: Vol. 348, Issue 6232, pp. 333-336.
3 Juliane Kaminski, Bridget M. Waller, Rui Diogo, Adam Hartstone-Rose, and Anne M. Burrows PNAS 2019 116 (29).
4 Miho Nagasawa, Shouhei Mitsui, Shiori En, Nobuyo Ohtani, Mitsuaki Ohta, Yasuo Sakuma, Tatsushi Onaka, Kazutaka Mogi1, Takefumi Kikusui1,* Science 17 Apr 2015: Vol. 348, Issue 6232, pp. 333-336.
5 Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce, Unleashing Your Dog: A Field Guide to Giving Your Canine Companion The Best Life Possible PP 139-147.
6 Kaminski, J., Hynds, J., Morris, P. et al. Human attention affects facial expressions in domestic dogs. Sci Rep 7, 12914 (2017).
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