Monday, July 14, 2014

Why It Is So Easy to Love a Dog

When we see a baby most grown people will turn into morons goo gooing and making impossibly ugly faces over the nearly terrified child. We move in close to the child's face, take impossible liberties touching and caressing the face, hands and feet of the child and then declare how tiny everything about them is.

They are adorable. We are seized by human survival when we see them.

When we see a baby we are reduced to idiots by nature. The baby's movements of hands, feet and face cause a very powerful hormone to be released in our bodies: oxytocin.

Oxytocin is the hormone that recruits our cooperation with the infants of our species. What triggers the release of oxytocin that causes us to want to touch, accept and defend a baby?

The movements of the baby. Those jerky, subtle movements of arms, legs and face that combine to reduce a grown adult to babbling fool. And Oxytocin works every time.

Nature has provided this to protect the totally vulnerable young. Even if someone meant to harm a baby, oxytocin makes it very difficult to think of such things by flooding our bodies with this recruitment to cooperation hormone. Even thinking of harming a baby seems hard to contemplate: oxytocin in your blood right now.

Dogs, once untamed hunters in the wild, found that sort of life a bit on the shaky side. But they did notice that in cooperation with humans, food would always be more available. Not to mention the care of their young and the scratching where no one had ever scratched before. But the humans were afraid of the wild dogs.

So the dogs of eons past learned from the humans. They noticed that if the humans found a litter of their offspring, the movements of the baby wild dogs caused the humans to not only not fear them but pick them up and take care of them.

At some faraway, nearly forgotten council of the wild dogs, the chief dog must have ordered an investigation into this matter of human acceptance of the little, wiggling and randomly licking infants.

The report came back to the chief. To gain human acceptance and love, the dogs would have to adopt the behaviors of the puppies and never forget to turn on those behaviors if the humans showed any signs of turning off the cooperation button.

The psychological report, not recently found in ancient dogglyphs, recommended that wild dogs, now tired of the hunting and getting trapped lifestyle, should learn to turn on the charm with humans in exchange for their cooperation.

Here are the ten actions the dogs have learned that make us love them (complete with notations and directions from the dog council):

1. Always wiggle with abandon when the human arrives into the human places.

This wiggling, like the wiggle of a baby, triggers the release of oxytocin. We cannot help it. When we return home and our dog wiggles and randomly squiggles in unrepentant joy, we want to return the love. We feel guilty if we don't.

2. If the human looks annoyed for any reason, begin rolling with abandon and making yipping noises.

This is another oxytocin trigger that works like a charm. Garbage dug into again? Go wiggle on the floor and roll around or...

3. Look hurt with saggy eyes and do not resist punishment.

This submissive behavior releases tons of oxytocin causing your human to regret ever punishing you. They will move the garbage can before they will punish you again.

4. Bring toys to them and step back and seem eager.

Humans cannot resist the oxytocin "cuteness" of a child handing them a toy and then eagerly expecting to play with it. Impossible. Even if the human doesn't want to play just then, they will apologize and you can try again later. The real strategy here is not to play - the strategy is to make the human feel sad they are not going to play. This will cause them to feel they owe you and give you treats later.

5. Run off and then come back

Humans fear desertion. Any chance you get, run away outside and then run back to the human like you have been scouting ahead for danger. This behavior releases so much oxytocin that the human nearly bursts from joy knowing you love them. You are not just "there" because you have to be. You are there because you love them!

Of course, you know you are there for food, warmth and an easy life, but the humans must never suspect this.

6. Make your human look good in front of other humans

Obey instantly. Sit. Stay. Perform whatever silly trick they think they have taught you. How you act in front of the human friends will cause not only your human to feel delighted but will encourag the other humans to give a dog an easy life if they have the hopes of getting one like you. You serve the dog community when you are so "good" when company comes over.

Never make the mistake of treating other humans with the same love, devotion and oxytocin releasing behaviors with which you lavish your human. This will win you no ponts. Your human wants to reserve the secret love relationship when no one is looking. When people are looking, be a champ of obedience!

7. Be friendly to all human children but standoffish to all human adults

This rule will win you points with all humans. Love the children and forget you could eat them with one swallow. Lick them, sniff them and play with them. Let them ride you and pull your ears until you yelp. When you yelp it is the human child who will pay the price while you get extra attention.

Your yelp will release oxytocin in all the adults and the child who pulled your ear so use it with gusto! Yelp!

With adults, keep your distance. Act like you are studying them. Do not run to them or be anxious to be petted by them unless you are in the dog jail and you need a human to escape. If that is true, then forget this rule and turn on the oxytocin charm.

8. Always try to help when humans have emotions

Don't get lazy and lose your ability to sense emotions in humans. When they are sad, try to nuzzle them like you would a sad or sick real dog baby. Roll on them and try to comfort them. Act like you "know" they need you but you don't know what to say. Just let them know you know.

Your efforts are the same as a human child saying, "Mommy, did you get an owie?" The oxytocin flows like magic and you come out the winner.

9. Act sad when the human leaves

Unless you make the mistake of getting attached to your human, you will never be sad when they leave. You may want to go fast in those noisy boxes they roll around in, but the freedom of being the lone wolf in the house is in our nature. Nevertheless, act sad. Only cats are dumb enough to act disinterested. That is why we hate cats.

Stop at the door and droop your eyes and back as if you are begging to go. The human will try to explain to you why you cannot go. Look like you don't understand. Usually the human will feel like they are deserting you and a treat will arrive with them when you roll around with glee when they return.

Enjoy your day of freedom.

10. Use your hearing to be the potential hero

Humans cannot hear. They are all deaf compared to us. Use this advantage. They will not hear the clumping of the stranger going down the street outside the den, but we do. Bark like mad and run to the door as if you were protecting the pack. Really let it rip.

The human will peek out and see (if they really can see) the stranger and know that you are the true guardian of the house. This gives them a sense of safety and security that will hasten your forever place in the human space and all the free food and water and warmth a dog could want.

--These reasons and much more are why we love dogs. We cannot help but love dogs. They have figured out that to be our best friends they had to use our hormones against us, but, then again, it seems to have worked out for everybody.

P.S.: Never let the humans know you really like "visiting dogs." Any dog with class will know you will have to give the humans a fright by doing the "will they fight" dance. It is entertainment to them. First things first. Otherwise, both sets of humans will feel you are far too fickle.