Dr. Gregory Berns is here to calm any concerns you have about your dog’s devotion to you.
What did he find? That your dog loves you — and not just because you’re the one that feeds him.
Dr. Berns was inspired to start the work after losing his own dog, a pug named Newton. After Newton’s death, Dr. Berns found himself often wondering what the pug thought of him.
The first step to finding an answer, from a neuroscience perspective, was to give dogs M.R.I.s. Dr. Berns worked with dog trainer Mark Spivak and an M.R.I. simulator he built in his basement to get his furry subjects comfortable with the real, enclosed, noisy medical machinery. None of the 90 dogs used in his research were drugged or restrained, and they were always allowed to exit the procedure if they felt uncomfortable.
In these scans, Dr. Berns looked to see if dogs used their brains in ways similar to humans.
“We did an experiment where we gave them hot dogs some of the time and praise some of the time. When we compared their responses and looked at the rewards center of their brains, the vast number of dogs responded to praise and food equally” he said.
Looking at these results, Dr. Berns concluded that dogs love their owners at least as much as they love food. Out of all the dogs used in the research, 20 percent showed more activity in their reward centers when they received praise, which means these canines may love the attention of their humans even more than kibble.
Along with this test, Dr. Berns also showed photos of different objects and people to the dogs, and found that fluffy subjects used a separate part of their brains when processing faces. This means, from the start, the brain of a dog is built to process and understand faces. Canine brains do not learn what faces are later in life once they are associated with receiving food.
Basically, your dog was made to love you.