How Strong is Your Bond with Your Dog?

The researchers at Dognition are helping us learn more and more about how dogs think and perceive the world. Dognition launched globally in early February and has been examining patterns and trends in the extensive data they have been receiving. One of the most interesting patterns they've discovered is a possible connection between the size of a dog and how close the owner-dog bond is.

One section of the dog games you'll get to play with your Dognition toolkit is called "Empathy." This section tests how long dogs hold eye contact with their owner. The researchers at Dognition found that dogs weighing over 70lb held eye contact for 30% longer than small dogs under 20lb.


Dr. Brian Hare, Dognition's Chief Scientific Officer, says that the discrepancy doesn't necessarily mean that small dogs aren't bonded to their owners--there are many possible explanations. It could be that because of the difference in height, it's simply easier for a large dog to maintain eye contact than it is for a small dog. It could mean that small dogs are more independent than larger dogs. Independent dogs may be better at problem-solving and keeping themselves entertained, so there's certainly nothing bad about having a more independent dog.

This fascinating finding is just a snippet of the loads of information being discovered on a daily basis by Dognition. They're asking all kinds of questions, such as whether toy breeds are more self-reliant than working breeds, or whether small dogs are more likely to yawn during the Empathy yawning game. And since more dogs join the data pool every day, there are loads of exciting discoveries to come.

Find out more about dog personality, and learn how your dog sees the world with Dognition.

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8 thoughts on “How Strong is Your Bond with Your Dog?

  1. Don Warren

    Hmmmm. Has anyone controlled for possible differences in the average rates at which smaller dogs and larger dogs tend shift their gaze overall?

  2. Liz Hennel

    I have 4 dogs. Two Border Terriers, a whippet lurcher & a saluki lurcher.They are aged 11, 5& 3yrs, three biatches & one dog, all neutered. ALL of our dogs have very firm eye contact, except when they are being naughty....all of them appear to understand guilt. Empathic yawning is especially present in the young male BT, and least in the eldest biatch...who is the pack leader.

  3. Poodlepassion

    I raise toy and miniature poodles and have been able to hold the eye contact with all of my dogs (less than 10 pounds) for a very long time. From an early age, about 6 weeks or before, when I groom them for the first time, while holding them on their backs, I can feel if they have tight muscles while sitting in my lap. They often look up to me with a little fear, or anxiety in their eyes. I relax my shoulders, close/open my eyes very slowly, drop my head in a partial nod and pretend to start to fall asleep while looking at them. I think because they see me as the alpha, they look back at me, sometimes blinking after I do, and their backs relax. Some even fall asleep. I think they feel if I'm comfortable and I'm the alpha, then they have nothing to worry about. Kind of talking the dog language with them.

  4. Eiglas

    Interesting theory but my miniature Poodle Charlie, begs to differ!
    If he could climb inside my skin and be attached 24/7 he would!
    Our little Lola (Poodle/Bichon cross) is not quite so dependant but still dislikes being separated from us for any length of time. She gazes lovingly into my husband's eyes for ages! LOL!

    I'll go check out the article though.....!

  5. rrpjr

    Don't agree.

    From Natural Dog Training:

    "Confusing eye contact with bonding is fueling the current epidemic problem of addiction-to-owner syndrome.

    "Dogs are team players, group animals (as opposed to pack animals), and being a productive member of a team is the healthy way for a dog to feel connected rather than by way of attention which is something that constantly varies and is often interrupted, and can never be satisfied. These are why such dogs are inherently anxious, they’re always on the lookout for that which can interrupt their sense of connection with their owner. (This includes things the owner does as well.) So don’t worry about your dog looking into your eyes, when a dog is emotionally bonded, he always can feel where you are."

  6. Cassandra Nancy Lea

    My dogs seem to love eye contact and will spend a good deal of their 'cuddle time" looking me in the eye. I love it!

  7. Cassandra Nancy Lea

    My main problem is what to do about a 'velcro" dog. One of my pups has to be cuddled up whenever I sit or lie down. His favourite place is INSIDE any shirt or blouse I'm wearing that has enough stretch to accomodate. If I leave he has a meltdown...altho he settles into his favourite "den" pretty quickly.

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