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The Real Reason You’re Obsessed With Your Dog

If you find yourself thinking endlessly about the wellbeing of your dog, you’re not alone. It’s an affliction that affects a large chunk of the human race. But the question historically is why? Why are we so concerned about our four-legged friends? What is this strange power they have to beguile us?

It turns out that the reasons are evolutionary (as so many things are). Researchers think that our brains evolved feel-good channels that encouraged us to work with tamed animals, thereby improving our survival chances. 

The Cute Factor

Underlying all this is something that scientists refer to as the “cuteness factor.” It turns out that biology programmed our brains to look after things that we perceive as cute. So when we look at a beautiful baby, our immediate instinct is to start “coo cooing” and wrapping it in swabs. 

The same happens when we see a puppy or a kitten. We can’t help but feel a sense of love and compassion towards it. Our innate response is to say “aww” and then think about how we might look after it. In other words, we’re primed to assist those who look baby-like and need our assistance. 

Dogs benefit from this little quirk of our biology enormously. We celebrate birthdays with them as if they were our children, lovingly apply paw balm to protect their feet, and talk to them as they understand what we say. We humanize the relationship to such a degree that we struggle to think of them as separate from our human relatives. We even bury the darn things. 

Petting Triggers Oxytocin

Being around pets also triggers the release of a chemical called oxytocin. This hormone is what nature designed mothers to release when they see their children, creating attachment instantly without conversation. 

Oxytocin is powerful stuff. It’s part of the reason why romantic relationships are so volatile. It leads to the development of strong emotions you don’t get when interacting with friends or colleagues. 

It turns out that petting your dog also triggers this hormone, making you feel optimistic about them and their continued existence. 

What’s more, it has real physiological effects on the body. People who interact with animals tend to have a lower heart rate and blood pressure. Even their rate of breathing can come down. 

Dogs are, therefore, something of a gift to humans. This four-legged ball of fur is something that we can use to improve our physical and psychological well-being. They calm us down and make us feel more connected to our environment and surroundings. They take us out of our heads and get us to focus on the real world again. And that can only be a good thing. 

So are you starting to build up a picture for why you’re so obsessed with taking selfies with your dog? It’s not something voluntary. Instead, it’s like most compulsions. Your body makes you do it. Dogs are hooking up to ancient psychological mechanisms, and that changes how you perceive them.

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