Dogs, as opposed to other animals, have a remarkable capacity to perceive our emotions, comprehend our gestures, and interact with us. Dogs’ keen interest in people is one of their most beautiful traits. However, not all dogs exhibit the same level of human-centeredness. There are variances among pooches even within breeds; some breeds are more autonomous than others. In accordance with recent study results presented in the journal. Also known as the “love hormone,” oxytocin may cause differences in dogs’ cooperative behaviour toward people.
The link between dogs and people is influenced by oxytocin. When we look each other in the eyes or make physical contact, hormone levels rise in humans and canines. However, not all pooches react to oxytocin in the same way, and it appears that there is a genetic basis for this. Previous research has linked the genetic material associated with the oxytocin receptor to canine social behaviour motivated by humans. This prompted Persson et al. at Linkping University in Sweden to question whether oxytocin-related genetic variations also have a role in a dog’s propensity for cooperation with humans.
The researchers used a nostril spray to manipulate the oxytocin levels of 60 Golden Retrievers while giving them an impossible assignment to complete. Owners collected DNA from skin cells on each dog’s cheek before the trial began, and three oxytocin receptor gene-related genetic markers were assessed. The researchers, therefore, identified the precise type of oxytocin-related gene present in each dog.
The Pooches were first shown how to take the Plexiglas lid off the top of a container that contained a treat. During testing, the task was difficult since the dog could not obtain the treat because the cover was permanently attached to the device and immobile. The researchers observed each dog’s behaviour and time spent solving the issue independently before asking a human for assistance. The dogs were given a nasal spray of either oxytocin or saltwater solution before being allowed access to the testing apparatus. While the saltwater served as a neutral control condition, the oxytocin spray raised the amount of the hormone in the dog’s bloodstream.
According to the findings, dogs’ responses to the nasal oxytocin spray varied based on their genetic variation. One of the versions made the dog seek more physical contact with a person, whereas the other variety had the opposite effect. There was evidence of a connection between the dog’s oxytocin levels, its genetic mutation, and its behavioural reaction. Additionally, earlier studies have demonstrated that different breeds exhibit the same genetic variance. As a result, genetic variation in oxytocin responsiveness may explain how individual dogs’ human-directed social behaviours differ from those of various breeds. In other words, due to their genetic makeup, some dogs may be more human-focused than others.
Intriguingly, the study might also have answered a query about how dogs were domesticated and how they differed from their wolf progenitors. When faced with an impasse, dogs frequently seek assistance from people, while wolves are less likely to do so. Dogs use eye contact to communicate in a manner that wolves do not. Of course, wolves don’t seek human connection in the same way that dogs do. This holds even for well-socialized wolves, demonstrating that dogs developed a remarkable capacity for cooperation with humans during domestication.
The researchers hypothesize that oxytocin was crucial in forming these canine-specific abilities. In addition, 21 wolves raised in a wildlife park or wild-born wolves living in captivity had their oxytocin-related genetic markers identified as part of the study. They discovered genetic variety in the wolves, just as they had in the Golden Retrievers, indicating that this variability predated domestic dogs by at least 15,000 years. The specific abilities we see in dogs today likely originated from those early wolves with a genetically based, highly developed capacity for cooperation with people. These wolves may have fared well near humans or were purposefully chosen by humans over their less cooperative peers.
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