Scientists at the Claremont Graduate University in California have found that dogs are really capable of loving their owners.
The researchers report that dogs release the 'love hormone' oxytocin in intimate situations. Professor Paul Zak and his colleagues conducted this study, which measured the levels of oxytocin released when pets interacted with other animals as well as humans.
Professor Zak went to an animal refugee in Arkansas where he obtained blood samples from a domestic mixed-breed terrier and a goat that often played together, which involved "chasing each other, jumping towards each other, and engaging in simulated fighting (baring teeth and snarling)".
The blood samples were obtained 15 minutes after the animals began this interplay. "We found that the dog had a 48 per cent increase in oxytocin. This shows that the dog was quite attached to the goat. The moderate change in oxytocin suggests the dog viewed the goat as a 'friend'," Zak told The Atlantic. "More striking was the goat's reaction to the dog: It had a 210 per cent increase in oxytocin. At that level of increase, within the framework of oxytocin as the 'love hormone', we essentially found that the goat might have been in love with the dog."
The researchers concluded these results suggested that pets may feel love for their owners.