I worked for a while writing for television, and during that time, I wrote for a kids' show called Dog with a Blog. The show followed a family and their talking dog, Stan. Stan not only talked to the family, he also blogged about their lives together.
The show made me wish that just for 15 minutes, my dog could speak. She could explain her thoughts, her behavior, and most importantly, to divulge what she thinks of me. Unfortunately, that kind of openness exists only on television. However, there have been some insights into what our dogs think of us and how they feel about their humans.
What exactly do dogs think of humans?
Dogs love us, and science has finally proven it. Scientists who study animal cognition at Emory University scanned the brains of specially-trained dogs with an MRI machine. The researchers observed the reactions of the dogs' noses because so much of the world is experienced through their nostrils. The then measured the dogs' brains when the dogs smelled their owners and found that the scent of an owner activated the "reward center" in a dog's brain. That means just the scent of their owner makes a dog feel unbelievably happy.
Dogs treat their humans like family.
Along with a reaction from the reward center in their brains, dogs also feel a "secure base effect" from their humans. This effect is comparable to human-infant bonding, where human infants view their parents as a secure base in a scary, unknown world. In a similar way, dogs view their humans as a secure and constant presence in the world.
Lisa Horn from the Vetmeduni's Messerli Research Institute conducted a study of dogs and the secure base effect. She explained, "One of the things that really surprised us is, that adult dogs behave towards their caregivers like human children do. It will be really interesting to try to find out how this behavior evolved in the dogs with direct comparisons."
Dogs prefer their humans to feed them.
Researchers studied how dogs responded to food rewards in front of their human, in front of a stranger, and in front of no one. The dogs were more enthusiastic for a food reward when their human was present as opposed to when they were alone. Also, the dogs' response in front of a stranger wasn't that different compared to when the dogs were alone. The research showed that dogs feel more comfortable and more motivated when their humans are around.
So just like we feel like our dogs are part of our family, they feel like we are a part of theirs. All that tail wagging and lovable excitement isn't just a show; they really mean it.