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Science Finally Tackles the Tough Question, “Does Your Dog Love You?”

Much love. Wow. So affection. Many bonds.

Elvis Costello the Dog

Thursday February 20th is world “Love Your Pet Day.” That’s all well and good, but do our pets–specifically dogs–love us back? That’s what researchers at the University of Adelaide wanted to find out, and they’re getting answers by studying puppies. Sometimes science is adorable.

PhD student Veronika Czerwinski is studying how puppies bond with their mothers to better understand how they bond with us. Earlier studies have looked at these bonds as they compare to those between humans and their children, but puppy-specific studies were lacking.

To conduct her research, Czerwinksi has been filming Labrador puppies interacting with their mothers from birth until they leave home at eight weeks old. That means that if you watch this video of Labrador puppies chasing their mother, you’re doing research and not just wasting time. Science is great.

Czerwinksi’s supervisor in this study, Dr. Susan Hazel of the University’s School of Animal and Veterinary science explained the importance of her student’s work, saying:

Describing the attachment behaviours between puppy and dam will allow us to study whether behaviours that the puppies are showing with their mum are also being shown with their human owner. This doesn’t necessarily translate from human mother-baby behaviours – we have litters of puppies, not litters of babies. Through better understanding of the attachment between humans and dogs we can nurture and protect this relationship, and maximise the benefits to both humans and dogs.

Essentially, by better understanding how dogs show affection for one another, we can we better understand if dogs love us, or are just great at making us think they do so that we’ll feed and take care of them.

(University of Adelaide via Phys.org, image my own)

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