STUDY: What Do Dogs Really Think About Humans?

Sure, they seem to be all cuddly smiles and fiercely devoted loyalty, but does man’s best friend really love us as much as they seem to?

Since dogs can’t speak (or so we think), it seems like a question that will never be conclusively answered. Luckily though, we have science.

Thanks to recent advances in brain imaging technology, scientists are beginning to study the brains of dogs, giving us more insight into their inner workings. The findings reveal that dogs really are as open and loving as they seem. According to Mic.com:

Not only do dogs seem to love us back, they actually see us as their family. It turns out that dogs rely on humans more than they do their own kind for affection, protection and everything in between.

Most of the information comes from a neuroimaging study on odor-based processing in the canine brain. Animal cognition scientists trained the dogs used as subjects to lie still for an MRI machine so they could measure their neural responses, since dogs “navigate the world through their noses.”

Scientists discovered the the smell of the dogs’ owners triggered a response in the dog’s caudate nucleus, otherwise known as their reward center. Of all smells, dogs actually prioritized the smell of humans over all other odors.

The results correspond with similar studies, including one conducted in Budapest, Hungary to test how dogs’ brains responded to human and non-human sounds. The study revealed that dogs process emotionally-laden vocal sounds in much the same way humans do. Put simply, dogs are physically wired to notice our emotional states and changes.

Behavioral research proves the same. Dogs are the only non-primate animal to seek out eye contact with humans. Dogs interact with humans in much the same way as babies do. When scared or distressed, dogs will run straight for their owners for comfort while horses and cats will seek shelter elsewhere.

To read more on the fascinating studies, read the full article at Mic.com.