When your dog listens to you and makes you proud, what do you do? Do you give them a dog biscuit, or do you scoop them up off the floor and give them some love?
According to a new study published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, dogs may prefer the latter.
Researchers studied the brain activity of 15 dogs with an fRMI machine throughout the course of about 32 trials each. Some of them were given praise, and others were given food. It was found from the data collected from the fMRI machine that the dogs who were praised were far more excited.
One of the trials involved teaching the dogs to associate objects with different outcomes; one object was associated with food, one with praise, and another with nothing. Another trial involved a Y-shaped maze where one end led to food and the other to the owner.
2 of the 15 dogs were reported to prefer the food, while 13 of the 15 dogs were reported to show equal or more brain activity from being praised.
Although there is a common misconception that dogs only behave when there is the reward of delicious food around the corner, the new study seems to debunk this idea.
“We are trying to understand the basis of the dog-human bond and whether it's mainly about food, or about the relationship itself,” said Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist from Emory University.
“One theory about dogs is that they are primarily Pavlovian machines: they just want food and their owners are simply the means to get it,” Berns continued. “Another, more current, view of their behavior is that dogs value human contact in and of itself.”
It would seem that dogs actually value and cherish the inter-species bond between themselves and man. The coined phrase “man’s best friend” may just be an accurate description for dogs after all.
“Dogs are hyper-social with humans and their integration into human ecology makes dogs a unique model for studying cross-species social bonding,” Berns added.
Whenever your dog behaves, make sure to give them some loving. This experiment seems to support the hypothesis that it does actually mean something to them.
Source: Emory University