Romanova Anna/Shutterstock Life can never be too “ruff” with man’s (or woman’s!) best friend around. Aside from their sweet cuddles and slobbery kisses, research has shown that your pooch can improve your sleep quality and even help you live longer. So if you catch yourself grinning from ear to ear thanks to all the benefits you get from your pup, rest assured that Fido is feeling the love, too—literally!
Studies show that smiling at your dog can boost his or her levels of oxytocin, also called “the love hormone” for its role in building attachment and trust. (Don’t miss these sure signs your dog trusts you.) On top of that, new research suggests that seeing a human smile might even cause dogs to ignore their natural instincts in favor of our puppy love—pun intended.
In the study, which was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, scientists at the University of Helsinki’s Canine Mind project showed photos of smiling or frowning human faces to 43 dogs. They did so two times: Once after receiving a dose of oxytocin, and once when they did not receive anything. During each experiment, the team used an eye tracking device to measure the test dogs’ gazes and pupil sizes, allowing the researchers to gauge their subjects’ emotional responses and levels of attentiveness.
While dogs are usually hard-wired to concentrate on threatening or dangerous stimulants, those under the influence of oxytocin were more likely to cast aside that survival instinct in the study. They tended to gravitate towards smiling human faces, instead, and their pupils became more dilated when they looked at the angry faces.
“Both effects promote dog-human communication and the development of affectionate relations,” lead author and Finnish professor Outi Vainio told Science Daily. In other words, give your pup a smile when you get home tonight. Trust us, it will seriously make their day. Check out even more tricks to become your dog’s favorite person (because it’s definitely a competition).