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Study Finds Dogs React Positively to the Words 'I Love You'

Dogs have long been hailed as man’s best friend, which made the special relationship between humans and canines the topic of much scientific research. It is unclear when dogs were first domesticated, but it is estimated that they were tamed about 20,000-40,000 years ago. Historically, dogs were known to keep us and our dwellings safe; they guarded our homes and assisted us with hunting and farming. But dogs have always been more than our assistants - they are truly loyal companions who are seemingly always willing and able to put a smile on their humans’ faces.

And it is not just us, humans, who benefit from an interaction with a friendly dog. A new study conducted by the UK-based company Canine Cottages found that our beloved canine friends experience the same magic when interacting with us. Not only that, but the findings suggest that saying loving words is just as effective as cuddles at showing affection to a dog. Read on to find out how your words can affect your dog and get valuable insights into canine-human communication.

How dogs keep humans in good health

It is known that pets have a remarkable ability to reduce stress and anxiety levels in humans. A study conducted at Washington State University, for example, has assessed the well-being of 300 students over the course of three years. The researchers found that those students who petted the provided therapy dogs were much calmer and performed better on their exams than those who had not participated in the weekly hour-long sessions.

Study: The Effect of Telling Your Dog ‘I Love You' dog and owner

And it’s not only our mental health that can benefit from interaction with dogs. Our physical health improves as well. According to a paper published in The Journal of Physical Activity and Health, dog owners are more likely to walk for leisure purposes than those who own pet cats and people who don’t own pets at all. Several other studies found that adults aged 60 and over enjoy better health thanks to the “enforced” exercise. To learn more about this topic, check out our previous article titled Study Finds Owning a Dog Boosts Longevity.

So how can we give back to our dogs for being such great companions?

 According to the experiment run by Canine Cottages, the heart rate of dogs jumps by 46% when they hear their owner say “I love you.” The researchers at Canine Cottages strapped four dogs with rate-tracking collars to show how their heart rate changed during specific interactions for one week. During that period, the dogs had an average resting heart rate of 67 beats per minute (bpm). Importantly, when their owners said the words "I love you," the dogs' heart rates would spike to an average of 98 bpm.

Study: The Effect of Telling Your Dog ‘I Love You'm study findings
Image Source: Canine Cottages

Similarly, when the dogs cuddled with their owners, they exhibited relaxation - a decrease of about 23 percent to 57 bpm. “It’s amazing to see that our dogs’ heart rate increases when they are told they are loved, showing excitement, and decreases when having cuddles, showing contentedness,” said Canine Cottages campaign manager Shannon Keary in a statement to People Magazine. 

As a part of the study, owners were documented experiencing an increase of about 10 percent in blood pressure when they see their beloved dogs. Although the canines’ heart rate indicates that they understand human displays of affection, one should bear in mind that they have their own unique way of showing their love. Among ten clear signs of dog affection, Canine Cottage named the following: licking and kissing, cuddling, greeting, begging, showing the belly, jumping up, and more.

Study: The Effect of Telling Your Dog ‘I Love You' dog and girl cuddling

Related: Got an Old Dog? Here's How You Can Properly Care of It!

Interestingly, if you catch your pup destroying your stuff, this too can be seen as a sign of affection. Dogs tend to steal and chew your stuff to get that much-needed attention, especially when you're not around. When your dog misses you, they may want to look for an object that smells like you. Chewing on it can release endorphins that help dogs relax. While coming back home to find one or more of your items ruined is definitely frustrating, try not to get mad the next time it happens.

Any pet owner probably knows how significant a relationship between a human and an animal can be - but it sure is nice to have science confirm it. So make sure to thank your dog for everything he or she does for you by saying even more “I love yous” starting today!

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