Why We Love Dogs More Than Humans – Some dog owners love their four-legged friends so much that they treat them like they would a child — and sometimes even say they prefer them to some friends and family.
Why We Love Dogs More Than Humans – The Research
Why We Love Dogs More Than Humans – New research has shown people are more empathetic to dogs than adult humans.
Only a baby human elicited more sympathy than an adult dog from study participants.
This is because we see dogs as part of the family, rather than just pets
And according to new research, there’s a scientific reason why.
Why We Love Dogs More Than Humans – A study published in the journal Society and Animals suggested that people are more empathetic towards dogs than fellow humans.
This research examines whether people are more emotionally disturbed by reports of non-human animal than human suffering or abuse.
Researchers took 256 people and showed them four fake newspaper stories.
Why We Love Dogs More Than Humans – The two hundred and fifty-six undergraduates (researchers) at a major northeastern university were asked to indicate their degree of empathy for a brutally beaten human adult or child versus an adult dog or puppy, as described in a fictitious news report.
Specifically, the fictitious reports were about:
A 1-year-old human baby
A 30-year-old adult human
A 6-year-old dog
In each scenario, the individual in question had been beaten by a baseball bat by an “unknown assailant” and left unconscious, with a “broken leg and multiple lacerations.” The four victims were:
Why We Love Dogs More Than Humans – It was hypothesized that the vulnerability of victims—determined by their age and not species—would determine participants’ levels of distress and concern for them.
The main effect for age but not for species was significant.
It was also found that more empathy for victims who are human children, puppies, and fully-grown dogs than for victims who are adult humans.
Age makes a difference for empathy toward human victims, but not for dog victims.
In addition, female participants were significantly more empathic toward all victims than were their male counterparts.
Why We Love Dogs More Than Humans – Participants were each given the same report with the victim being either a one-year-old baby, a 30-year-old adult, a puppy,or a six-year-old dog.
Then they were asked about how they felt using questions to measure their levels of empathy.
Why We Love Dogs More Than Humans – The team hypothesized that the vulnerability of the victims — determined by age, rather than species — would be the most important factor in participants’ levels of distress and concern.
In fact, empathy levels for the puppy, older dog, and baby human were on similar levels, while the adult person came last.
The adult dog only received lower scores of empathy when compared to the infant human victim.
“Subjects did not view their dogs as animals, but rather as ‘fur babies,’ or family members alongside human children,” the researchers concluded, showing how people often think of their pets as part of the family.
Instead, the researchers concluded it could be a route of communication between owner and pet.
Guess which individual elicited the most empathy?
Pro Tip: It wasn’t human, and it wasn’t six years old.
In fact, the order of empathy was highest for the puppy, then the human baby, then the older dog, then the adult human.
To be fair, the empathy levels were fairly close for the first three; it was the adult human that received the least amount of love.
In other words, we adore dogs so much, their suffering bothers us more than human suffering.
This is particularly true if they’re our dogs.
Why We Love Dogs More Than Humans
Why We Love Dogs More Than Humans – As the study said, “Subjects did not view their dogs as animals, but rather as ‘fur babies’, or family members alongside human children.”
Anyone who has ever had a dog as a pet can attest to this.
Those “fur babies” truly do become members of the family, and anything that hurts them, hurts us.
The fact is, doggy love isn’t just a nice-to-have — it’s a powerful part of a healthy lifestyle.
Why We Love Dogs More Than Humans – A 2017 Swedish study of 3.4M people found that for those who live alone, dog ownership can decrease risk of death by 33 percent.
Stop and consider how momentous a finding that is for a moment — your risk of death drops by a third if you have a dog.
If that kind of effect could be bottled and sold as a pharmaceutical, it would be labeled a wonder drug.
Why We Love Dogs More Than Humans – Study after study confirms that having a dog doesn’t just keep you alive longer; it also improves your mental health, lowers your rate of heart disease, and increases your overall level of joy.
This is, in part, because having a pet boosts your levels of oxytocin, the bonding hormone.
Also known (adorably) as the “cuddle chemical,” oxytocin lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, strengthens your immune system, and lowers rates of stress, anger, and depression.
It’s not just effective at home, either.
Having dogs in the office makes for workers who are more engaged, productive, and happier.
Love is one of the most powerful forces in the universe.
And since pups are basically love incarnate, it’s fitting that science is backing up what we’ve always known to be true: there’s nothing quite so comforting as the company of a dog.
Before you get a dog, you can’t quite imagine what living with one might be like and how your life will change.
Once that furry creature becomes part of your family you can’t imagine living any other way.
Empathy is a complex emotion for us humans. In many ways, it seems to be disappearing from society.
Because of the constant media barrage of violence, death, and despair, we are becoming increasingly desensitized to the suffering of others.
It’s Easy for Humans to Generate Empathy for Dogs
So why is it so easy to generate empathy for suffering animals?
The natural affection we feel for animals can be compared to the affection we feel for our children.
We impulsively care for them and desire to help them because they are unable to help themselves easily.
Our perception of adult humans is that they can easily speak up for their rights or defend themselves from danger.
But that is not true of children and animals, who are completely at the mercy of others for shelter, food, and protection.
Children and animals both demonstrate an innocence that we feel compelled to protect.
Why We Love Dogs More Than Humans – So in fact, our increased empathy for dogs and cats has nothing to do with a preference for a certain species, and everything to do with our innate human desire to protect and nurture those who are innocent and helpless.
The next time you find your blood boiling over the latest news story about an abused dog (or an abused child), now you can understand the reason.
Why We Love Dogs More Than Humans – Another interesting fact that emerged from this study: female respondents were far likelier to show equal empathy for all four hypothetical victims.
But beyond our impulse to care for the helpless, what else is going on in our relationship with animals?
Why We Love Dogs More Than Humans – Unconditional Love
Dogs Provide Unconditional Love
It’s true. We all yearn for it and crave it.
Someone who loves us for who we are.
Who has zero expectations?
Who is always happy to see us, no matter how grumpy we may be feeling today.
We crave unconditional love.
In human relationships, this precious commodity is almost impossible to find.
But not with pets.
It doesn’t matter if your boss yelled at you, your boyfriend broke up with you, or your car broke down on the Interstate.
Your beloved Fido or Morris is there for you.
He is rubbing up against you, looking at you with those adoring eyes.
Wagging his tail or purring contentedly.
Animals Touch The Most Intimate Parts of Our Hearts: Our Need to Nurture & Protect, Our Need for Companionship & Love.
Your dog or cat doesn’t care whether you’re skinny, rich, athletic, or popular.
He or she just wants you: your presence, your affection, your voice, and your touch.
And in this “dog-eat-dog” world (pun intended), that means everything.
As a matter of fact, this unconditional love is so important to us that it can change our brain chemistry.
Why We Love Dogs More Than Humans – Connection
Spending time with a pet has been found to lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, and release chemicals that trigger relaxation.
Overall, pet owners are just healthier (both physically and mentally) than those who don’t own pets.
Some of us even like to talk about our pets, going so far as to confide in them about our problems.
And you won’t find a more supportive audience anywhere.
No matter what you tell them, they won’t judge you.
They’ll continue to love you just as much as they did before.
And unlike humans, you never have to worry that they might talk behind your back or betray your confidence.
And what about the social benefits of pet ownership?
Studies have found that pet owners are less likely to be lonely.
Besides your pet’s companionship, they also make it easier for you to connect with congenial humans.
How many times have you made a new friend because they interacted with your lovable pet first?
They also help lonely people to discover a sense of meaning or purpose in their lives.
And also, interactions with pets are a proven mood booster.
When you think of the obvious benefits they provide, it’s no wonder we love them so much.
But besides these benefits, some cultural influences are surrounding our love of pets.
Why We Love Dogs More Than Humans
We love animals, sure.
But do we love all animals equally?
If we analyze our feelings carefully, we find that most of our adoration of animals centers on dogs and cats.
We sometimes might feel empathy for certain large wild animals such as elephants, dolphins, or lions.
When we read about a lion or an elephant who is hunted and killed in the wild, our response is one of anger, almost as much anger as hearing stories of abuse and neglect of dogs and cats.
But there is a basic irony about these feelings.
The routine slaughter of animals for food (cattle, chickens, pigs, etc.) doesn’t faze us nearly as much.
Pet Adoration: Influences And Ironies
There are several psychological explanations as to why that might be.
First, we must account for the influence of pop culture.
Take a few moments to think about how many pet movies you watched as a kid. Lassie.
Lady and the Tramp. Scooby-Doo. And many, many more. All of these media portrayals endow dogs and cats with human qualities.
They talk to each other, indulge in dreams for the future, and fall in love just like we do.
Popular culture has drilled it into us over generations that our pets are just like humans.
And this cultural perception is not going to go away any time soon.
Our reverence for dogs and cats over other kinds of animals could also be explained by something called “the collapse of compassion.”
This is the psychological principle which tells us that the more tragedy we see, the less we care.
It’s the reason that you may not feel any compassion for the millions of people living in extreme poverty, while the story of one child who has to live on the street with no medical care is likely to move you to want to help.
Why We Love Dogs More Than Humans – The Whys
Given all these considerations, it’s easy to understand why some of us seem to prefer animals over humans.
But the reality is a much bigger picture than we realize.
Animals touch the most intimate parts of our hearts: our need to nurture and protect, our need for companionship and love.
These needs exist within us, no matter what.
But it seems that animals have a unique ability to bring them out in us.
Dogs, cats, even lions, and monkeys inspire us to reveal these deep human needs, which we might otherwise keep hidden.
And there’s nothing pathological about that.
In fact, it proves that we have a deep capacity to love and care for others under the right circumstances.
Paradoxically, our love and care for animals free us to be human.
And that’s a precious gift.
Dogs Provide Unconditional Love
Animals are unflinching and unreserved with their love for us.
Sure, we feed them, pet them, play with them, and clean up after them, but they love us even if we don’t put their dinner down on time or take an extra day to clean the litter.
Dogs Don’t Judge You
Eat leftover cold pizza for breakfast? Didn’t make the bed or do the dishes? Sit around all Saturday in your pajamas to watching Football instead of mowing the lawn? Leave the capoff the toothpaste? Your animals won’t give you a dirty look. They’re just happy you’re around!
Dogs Aren’t Always Asking for Something
Yes, animals are pretty much constantly ready to eat and play, but they don’t always bug you over it.
Your pets give you plenty of alone time if you need it.
Sometimes so much that you go looking for them to make sure they didn’t get into trouble while you weren’t looking.
Dogs Appreciate Attention
There’s never a bad time to lean down and give your favorite furry friend a pat or two.
Whether it’s a nice belly rub, a good scratch behind the ears or under the chin, or even just a pat on the head and some murmured words as they walk by, and they’ll be wagging tails and plenty of purrs left and right.
Dogs are Protective
When an animal claims you as their human, you have become the chosen one.
They won’t let anything bad happen to you.
Whether it’s protecting you from physical harm, keeping an eye on you when you’re sick, or simply curling up next to you and putting their head in your lap when you’re sad, animals will always have your back no matter what.
Dogs are Soft and Cuddly
From long and sleek to short, plush, and everything in between, animals are warm and soft to the touch.
There’s nothing more satisfying than burying your face in a warm, fuzzy creature’s comforting fur when you need something soft and satisfying at your fingertips and you’re tired of someone else’s freezing feet leaving you chattering in bed or on the couch.
Dogs Hear Way Better Than We Do
Animals are great listeners.
Ever have a cat or dog who was waiting for you at the door well before you came around the corner?
They know when you’re coming home even from a block away, whether it’s from the sound of your car engine to the cadence of your footsteps, thanks to their highly developed sense of hearing.
You Can Feed Dogs The Same Thing Every Meal & They Don’t Complain
Fed up with trying to feed your family something new and exciting every night?
Tired of wasting time and energy on cooking something, only to have the kids pick at it and then eat potato chips for dinner?
Animals couldn’t care less about what you put on their plate.
You feed your pet the same can of wet food every evening and they gobble it up like it’s a gourmet meal every time. T
alk about deliciously low-maintenance.
Dogs Calm Us Down When We Are Stressed
People can be exhausting.
Work, school, family — just being around them sometimes can leave you feeling anxious and annoyed.
Yet being in the presence of an animal can have a calming effect on the human psyche.
In an increasingly chaotic and uncertain world, filled with the strangest of days and events, coming home to an animal that’s been waiting patiently for you to return is like stepping out of a desert into an emotional oasis.
Dogs are Loyal
Nothing is more loyal than an animal you’ve bonded with.
They’re your ride or die, inseparable from your side no matter what, and that’s something we all need from time to time.
If you need someone you can trust to always be with you, an animal beats out a human just about every time.
Humans, Who Needs Them?
In fact, sometimes we do love them more than humans.
Okay, so we still need humans for a few things, but let’s be honest: when we have the chance, we go with animals over humans every time we can.
Why We Love Dogs More Than Humans – Puppy Love
Why We Love Dogs More Than Humans – Research suggests the connection many humans feel with their canine companions is a lot like love.
In one recent study in the journal Science, for instance, researchers found the same hormone associated with maternal love and passionate love, oxytocin, increases in both pups and their owners when the two species do no more than lock eyes.
The same can’t be said for humans and wolves, the researchers found.
The results suggest “a coevolution between human and dogs,” says lead study author Takefumi Kikusui, a professor in the Department of Animal Science and Biotechnology at Azabu University in Japan.
That’s part of the reason why, he says, “it is very natural to form a bond between dogs and humans.”
Stanley Coren, a professor emeritus in the University of British Columbia’s department of psychology says dogs are a man’s best friend because we’ve domesticated them to be that way.
The Bond Between Dogs & Humans
“We invented the dog and we invented it to fit in a certain niche in our lives,” says Coren, who’s written a series of popular books on pooches. “And so for at least 14,000 years, we have been … creating an animal which understands our communications and we understand its communications and they have a bond with us.”
For example, if a person points to something in a distance, a dog will look in the direction of the finger, just like a human.
But if the dog was a wolf? It would simply look at the finger, Coren says. “We’ve sort of wired the dog to read our communications,” he says.
For Anderson, who’s now a mother to a Maltese and a Yorkie, dogs can be more lovable than humans because “they absolutely go out of their way to please us,” she says. “They want to do whatever we want to do, their love is absolutely unconditional, they’re affectionate to a fault – all the kinds of things that humans enjoy in a relationship are the kinds of things dogs excel at.”
Why We Love Dogs More Than Humans – Dogs That Act Like instant Prozac for Humans
Why We Love Dogs More Than Humans – Over 54 million U.S. households own more than 77 million dogs, according to the American Pet Products Association.
And those pups are pampered: Dog moms and dads spend $83 on grooming, $47 on toys and $330 on food and treats for their furry children each year, according to the association’s most recent survey of pet owners. “We have completely embedded pets into human culture,” Anderson says. “We give our dogs human names, dress them up for holidays, give them gifts, take them to church and grieve deeply when they die.”
Is that healthy? By most accounts, yes. Studies have shown, for instance, that simply petting “a familiar and friendly” dog can lower your heart rate, make your breathing more regular and relax your muscles, Coren says.
Why We Love Dogs More Than Humans – In one unpublished study, people had significantly lower blood pressure just two months after adopting dogs when compared to pet-parents-to-be who were still waiting for their puppies, reports the American Heart Association.
The organization concludes that owning a dog “may have some causal role” in reducing heart disease risk.
Why We Love Dogs More Than Humans – A 2012 study in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management of a 550-employee company found that workers’ stress levels declined over the course of the day if they brought their dogs to work.
The opposite was true for dogless employees and those who left Rover at home.
“We know that stress and all those nasty things do bad things for our health” such as weakening our immune system and putting our hearts at risk for cardiovascular problems, Coren says.
One answer could be right under our snouts. “Dogs that act like instant Prozac.”