What is the bonding hormone? Why is it important? (The following is from my coursework for the ISCP Diploma in Canine Psychology course I’m currently doing):
The bonding hormone is called OXYTOXIN. It is also called the “Cuddle Hormone” or the “Love Hormone”. (This is the same hormone that is released from eating chocolate, which is why some say “Chocolate is better than sex”!)
Perhaps the reason why dogs became and remain to this day humankind’s best friend is because they have inadvertently tapped into the secret of releasing Oxytoxin in both their humans and themselves. Research has proven that when dogs and their owners stare into each other’s eyes, just like when two lovers gaze at each other, the hormone is released in both human and dog. This hormone acts to strengthen the bond between human and dog. Stroking the dog increases the levels of oxytocin in both human and dog. Oxytocin also lowers the heart rate and blood pressure, calms both humans and dogs, and reduces stress levels. It makes both humans and dogs feel good. The therapeutic effect dogs and other animals have on humans has been proven, that is why many hospitals and hospices engage the services of therapy dogs (and other animals such as cats, rabbits and even chickens) to make their patients feel better and perhaps even recuperate or recover faster from their ailments or surgery.
The stronger the bond, the more likely the human is to protect the animal from harm, because the human now has a vested interest in the animal. Put simply, Oxytocin is what causes humans to love their dogs, and dogs to love their owners. The ability of humans and dogs to bond works in favour of both species – humans get the companionship, protection and assistance of their four-legged friends, while the continued existence and survival of dogs is almost guaranteed by staying close to humans.
Oxytocin is what makes us treat our dogs like family members rather than just household pets. The bond can be so strong that when a dog dies, it’s almost as if your daughter or son has died.