Why having a dog is like being on drugs

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by Rafiki, Mar 5, 2009.

  1. Rafiki

    Rafiki New Member


    Studies show contact almost doubles levels of oxytocin and serotonin
    Mar 04, 2009 04:30 AM
    Comments on this story (8)
    Barbara Turnbull
    Living reporter

    It turns out dogs really are bred in the bone – theirs and ours.

    So are horses, pigs, cows and all animals that get the oxytocin system flowing, according to a new book that gives sound scientific reason for why we spend billions on the quality and quantity of our pets' lives.

    Made for Each Other: The Biology Behind the Human-Animal Bond, by Meg Daley Olmert, offers the proof most pet owners don't need about how and why we bond to animals.

    "It is run on the same physiology that allows a mother to recognize her baby as her own and want to pick it up and hold it to her breast and protect it," Daley Olmert says. "That's the piece of the puzzle that nobody had put together."

    Oxytocin is best known as the hormone that causes labour and lactation in nursing mothers. But we all produce it, need lots of it and, when we have animals in our lives, it becomes a "renewable system" of relieving stress.

    The science of social bonding has only been understood in the past 15 years. Oxytocin, and other chemicals that make up the social brain network, exist and work powerfully in all kinds of animals, promoting reproduction and social behaviours. Its origins stretch back to the earliest people, who began to share caves with wolves.

    Humans had been prey for animals for a million years. What changed?

    Her book theorizes that the earliest interactions created a powerful chemical feedback system that became genetically advantageous and part of the evolutionary process, taming and, at the extreme level, domesticating the animals that made development possible.

    Daley Olmert's early life was spent in a New York housing project, where she had no pets, but a definite "way" with animals. She went from working as a veterinary technician to writing National Geographic documentaries and to a show that examined the ways wild animals assist humans.

    After learning about oxytocin in people, she participated in a University of Maryland study of the hormone. At the same time, a flood of studies showed oxytocin stimulates the cortices that control emotions, quiet fears and can switch off the powerful defence system known as "fight or flight."

    It isn't voluntary, which is why our species survives, and it isn't specific, making "beauty" literally in the eye of the beholder, Daley Olmert says. "If you perceive something as being not threatening and attractive, it will release this chemistry."

    That chemistry makes us comfortable, prompting us to be gregarious and enter social relationships, animal or human, she says.

    So it's not "unconditional love," as so many animal lovers cite for the reason they're devoted to their pets. "It's highly conditioned by this chemistry," Daley Olmert says.

    "Studies have shown that human and animal contact, specifically with people and dogs, almost doubles levels of oxytocin and serotonin," she says. "At this point, it appears that our pets are the most powerful releasers of oxytocin in our brains and that could account for the fact that when your pet dies, you feel like a cannonball got fired through you."

    Urbanization is another reason we need our pets so badly, the book says. Farms kept us steeped in oxytocin for 10,000 years. We relied on animals for everything from heat to strength to food, maintaining a critical feedback system.

    It has taken only 100 years for most of us to leave farm life. There has also been a dramatic increase in psychological problems, anxiety, depression, attention deficit, hypertension and stroke, Daley Olmert points out. Coincidence?

    "These are all the type of psychological and physiological effects you would expect to see (with oxytocin deprivation)," she says. "I would extend that to the care and emotions being lavished on pets. It's a natural corrective.

    "(Pets) certainly have stepped in to fill the loneliness void that modern society has created," she says.

    Rover registers your slightest twitch

    It's not your mind Rover is reading when he gets his leash, it's your muscles.

    As a result of being prey for a million years, our muscles make micro-movements when we're just thinking of a certain motion, says the author of a new book, Made for Each Other: The Biology Behind the Human-Animal Bond.

    Life was tough before we became predators, says author Meg Daley Olmert. "We were so outnumbered and we were smaller and weaker and slower than all the other animals.

    "It made good sense that we would develop the systems that actually prepare us, get us absolutely ready to go ... like in a race, so that when we wanted to move, our body was primed and practised and able to execute the move perfectly," she says.

    That's what makes Fido start pacing, she says. These movements, imperceptible to the naked eye, were first proposed at the turn of the 20th century, after a German math teacher claimed his horse could spell, as well as answer math and science questions. "Clever Hans" toured Germany, tapping the answers to questions such as, "What's the square root of 16?"

    An independent commission sided with the horse, but a psychologist proved Hans was only accurate when the questioner was up close and knew the answer. Although unaware, questioners would ever-so-slightly relax when Hans reached the right number of taps. He got a carrot every time.

    "What they discovered with Hans was that horses are brilliant muscle readers and dogs appear to be just as good," Daley Olmert says.

    Thoughts are present for seven seconds before conscious awareness of them, according to some researchers. "In that time, your whole body has started to prepare for that walk ... and dogs seem to be able to read that so clearly," she says.

    Barbara Turnbull
  2. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    I agree. Pets are swell, and good for our mental health except when they
    act like kids and drive us crazy.

    But: "Humans had been prey for animals for a million years."

    You agree with this? I can't think of any animal which had humans as
    a significant source of food.

    Bon apetit


  3. Rafiki

    Rafiki New Member

    "Bon apetit" LOL!

    Well, I don't know how we evolved with the other large mammals in terms of shared territory but many large predators will hunt and eat us today so why would they have been picky eaters when we didn't use so much shampoo and deodorant and were probably tastier. Many big cats will eat us. Bears will eat us.

    That would be lions, tigers and bears, oh my!

    There's no place like home,

    BILLCAMO New Member

    Including the unconditional love that many people can't give !!!!!!

    BRB , gotta go clean up some little piles of stuff my dog left for me out in the yard......;>) LOL Even though she only weighs 6# , she has scared away all the predators from around here.....Just for me ! :>)

    Hey Rock , politicians are cannibals.....think about it....lol

    Blessings ,

    [This Message was Edited on 03/05/2009]
  5. therealmadscientist

    therealmadscientist New Member

    I think there is a cave in Africa that had about a hundred human skulls. Each one with two tooth puncture holes whereby leopards had dragged human prey home to their cave.

    People were a lot smaller then. I mean, would anyone really trust their cute pet house cat if it weighed 500lbs and stared at you all day?

    There is a theory that humans smell and taste really bad to most predators. Seems rather believable:)

    Hmmm, maybe somehow can explain the "natural" antipathy between dogs and cats? Cheers, mr Bill
  6. TwoCatDoctors

    TwoCatDoctors New Member

    My cats answered that. They said the cats and the humans had a sit down catered with buttered popcorn, pizzas (half with no tomato sauce, but all catnip, tuna, salmon, anchovies, mice, chicken and pidgeon). It was agreed that canned cat tuna, canned cat chicken and such would be provided and thus humans would take the cats into their homes. Sometimes the cats would attack ankles, but mostly attack fake stuffed mice and little stupid stuffed creatures on poles the humans would dangle--this would make the humans laugh and keep them busy. Industrious humans would have litter boxes and thus "litter box cookies" were born, which some cats would then CATapult when they got thoroughly disgusted and upset.

    So there became peace and cats developed "catspeak" so that humans would never know that they were saying again. So the cats would meow, the human would say "look how cute" and actually the cat had said in catspeak "yo stick man, tell my posse how cute I am." And when the man said how cute the cat was, the posse would be laughing and fall over each other that the cat had that control. And that control has continued to this day. It is not lost on some the saying that "dogs have people--cats have staff."
  7. gapsych

    gapsych New Member

    Great post with some great answers. I am still laughing.

    Twocatdoctors, there is a cartoon by Gary Larson, where the owner is scolding the dog and the dog interprets each scold as "good dog". It is sad that he decided not to do cartoons anymore.

    Rafiki, I interpreted the title to your post as meaning that like drugs, animals are harmful to your health, have horrible side effects, you can become addicted to them and end up with 1,028 animals in your home. Actually, there is probably a grain of truth in that, LOL!!

    Apropos of nothing, did you know, that when people have too many pets, like what you sometimes hear on the news, that someone has 1.028 cats, it is not good for them. They need so much personal space or they become somewhat "feral like", if such an expression exists, and fight for their territory with disastrous results.

    Just a sidenote on why being addicted to animals can escalate to being harmful for the animals.

    Just say no!!

  8. Rafiki

    Rafiki New Member

    This is brilliant! Brilliant!

  9. Rafiki

    Rafiki New Member

    I haven't run into you in ages. Nice to see you!

    There probably is some truth to the addiction theory of animals. When I could afford it, I had three dogs. I'd have three today if I could. Three is a good number because if you are with one, the other two have each other. In many ways it was easier having three.

    I can totally see how there is a point at which you are no longer in charge and it reverts to a feral state, though. 'Cept if you're Cesar Milan! Maybe even him, come to think.

    So, Gap, you don't have 1028 cats, do you?!

    :eek:) <that looks like my dog, it really does!

    peace out,
  10. gapsych

    gapsych New Member

    Have you been gone from the board or is it my mind that has been gone and I somehow missed your posts? Well, either way, welcome back!!

    Actually I have 1,031 cats as one of them just had three kittens, LOL!!

    Once I started reading your post, I knew what you were talking about. It's the title that I misinterpreted. Some people may call it a processing problem but I prefer to think of it as creativity.

    Hope you are doing well. Okay, just realized you aren't with them pesky mites. If you were to leave your place for a certain amount of time, would they all die off with nothing to munch on or would they possibly become "feral" and start eating each other? Do you think Mite cannibalism, might get rid of them?

    Have you thought about mosquito netting or are the holes big enough for the mighty mites to get in. You could just drape it over your body, giving you a ghostly appearance. If you wear a hat and glasses as accessories you will look exactly like, the character either on the Munsters or the Adam's family. Darn, I can't think of the name.

    I just had a vision of the "mighty mites" wearing capes. Do mites fly? Without capes?

    It must be time for bed as I am rambling.

    You take care, you hear!!!
    [This Message was Edited on 03/06/2009]
  11. harmony21

    harmony21 New Member

    havnt the energy to read it all but jsut the words that stick out!!!!! I have 3 cats and i just love them and they know that when iam not well and have those stay in bed days they are there right beside me
    Unfortunately my younger son has come home after being dismissed from his work of 4 years and the middle one was also jobless for a while but has a job again and the eldest is in jail, very sad. so its standing room only in this house

    hope you are well R and sending you angel hugs

  12. harmony21

    harmony21 New Member

    havnt the energy to read it all but jsut the words that stick out!!!!! I have 3 cats and i just love them and they know that when iam not well and have those stay in bed days they are there right beside me
    Unfortunately my younger son has come home after being dismissed from his work of 4 years and the middle one was also jobless for a while but has a job again and the eldest is in jail, very sad. so its standing room only in this house

    hope you are well R and sending you angel hugs

  13. Rafiki

    Rafiki New Member

    I was not entirely gone but was hanging out on the Spirituality/Worship board. I was having some personal challenges that were rattling my cage and needed to focus on certain aspects of my practice and found opportunities to do that on the S/W board.

    This is a wee bit hard to type as the ghostly mosquito netting keeps getting tangled 'round my fingers! LOL, you are so funny!

    Beware the cats, they have been known to eat their owners!

    I hear, you take care, too!
    peace out,
  14. Rafiki

    Rafiki New Member

    You're another I haven't seen around for a long time! I am so sorry to hear that you've had more than your share of woe lately. There is sooo much woe going around!

    Well, one son back up on his pins again. That's one good thing. And, your sense of humour has not deserted you though you have certainly had ample reason to give it up.

    You're the unsinkable Connie Harmony21!

    Peace out,

    BILLCAMO New Member

    Even though you think you can't afford a dog , I suggest you consider a small , low maintence dog for your best friend. Unlike cats & many people , they are always willing to help their human buddies !

    They are less expense and more help than Drs. too !

    In my case , the small dog my wife insisted we get , has helped us MUCH more than ANYTHING else.

    Even though I have to pick up the poop.....etc......lol.......:>) And , though our dog is not a low maintenance "model" , she has given MUCH more joy than anything else.

    Blessings ,

  16. Rafiki

    Rafiki New Member

    I misled you somehow. I have a dog. In fact, I have the very best and most wonderful dog in the world! I seriously do. (Ok, you probably believe same of your little guy.)

    I've always had dog(s). I think what I said was that I could no longer afford to have three (3) dogs but would if I could.

    I'm so happy you are enjoying your little dog. I've never had a really big dog. They have ranged from 55 lbs to 12 lbs. Present amazing wee dog is 17 lbs.

    Life without a dog is... it's... well, Dogless!

    When you say not low maintenance do you mean temperament or grooming? I always have poodles or poodle crosses because I'm allergic and they are brilliant.

    Enjoy your little dog!


    [This Message was Edited on 03/07/2009]

    BILLCAMO New Member

    It was most likely my brain fog/farts.....not you misleading me ! :>)

    In fact , it is a small world..... My wife got a toy poodle less than a year ago. She bragged about how smart poodles are......I have too agree......The poodle pup had my wife trained in less than 5 days.....LOL...

    Myself , I'm untrainable , but , I'm housebroke.......;>0

    The unconditional love given can't be argued about. In fact , today I drove her to get a 2nd toy poodle pup ! Even though that means no supper for me for a couple of years , the love is worth it !

    Actually , I'm kidding about no supper , both "toy peoples" may top out at around 6.2 #........:>) .......lol.......And both give tons of love & laughter !

    (The older one is a silver and the new one is a black.)

    I won't call woof but I will bow wow back at you ! :>}
    Blessings ,

    [This Message was Edited on 03/08/2009]
  18. jole

    jole Member

    But before I became so sick I "tolerated" dogs and that was it. Now it's more of a love affair of sorts. Just seeing our Aussie with a ball in her mouth waiting for me to come play makes my heart happy, even if I don't have the energy to do more than pet her.

    It takes so little to make them smile, and lick you like you're the very best person in the world! They forgive everything and are always there to protect, love, entertain or lay quietly at your feet...and seem to know exactly what you need!

    I used to be such a cat person...still like them a lot, but my dog is my mainstay now. No pets in the house though, hubby forbids it :(***Jole***