Those of us who know and love dogs don't need scientific proof that dogs love us. But the results of a recent study may provide hard evidence that dogs are capable of feeling complex emotions, particularly love and attachment.
Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Burns and his colleagues analyzed the results of brain scans on dozens of dogs. This was the first time that scans were able to be completed on dogs that were not under any type of anesthesia. The scientists wanted to study how the dog's brain functions when presented with different stimuli, which would be impossible with an anesthetized dog.
The study's findings may not be surprising to many of us, but they certainly affirm the fact that dogs do feel love and attachment towards humans. The study showed that the caudate, the area of the brain in humans that is activated when humans feel love, also activates in dogs when their owner returns after a brief separation.
Burns concludes that these findings suggest that dogs have a level of sentience comparable to that of a human child, which calls for a rethinking of how we treat dogs. For me, the study validates the importance of using positive training methods and further fuels the battle against shock collars and other aversive devices. Since dogs have an incredible ability to think and learn, we should harness those abilities through force-free training, rather than subject them to unnecessary and ineffective aversive training methods that only serve to shut down their desire to think and learn.