Ten years ago I could not imagine owning a dog, let alone starting a pet gate business and spending a Sunday afternoon at a lecture about dogs. What happened to me?! How did I go from a reluctant pet owner to a woman with a serious dog crush?
I found my answer a few weeks ago when I attended a lecture at the American Kennel Club's Museum of the Dog. The talk was entitled “Why Women Love Dogs” presented by Sarah Wilson, a renowned expert in dog training, behavior and the human/animal bond. Sarah explained it is all about “connection” and that beautiful hormone all women seek to increase, oxytocin…you know the “happy hormone.” Turns out the more we bond with our dogs the more our oxytocin levels shoot up. Sarah points out that even in this world of physical disconnection, women can’t help but crave true bonding. And who better to offer us that unconditional love but our pets.
Sarah went on to explain that for many women our relationships with our dogs are growth-enhancing. She outlined five situations that occur between a woman and her dog that get those oxytocin levels revved up to where we become happier, healthier human beings. They are: mutual engagement, closeness, eye contact, mutual empathy and shared activities.
Mutual engagement is simply giving out affection and getting back an immediate positive response as a result of that affection e.g. petting your dog and his tail wags; you kiss them they kiss you back. Sarah Wilson calls this the “Loop.”
Closeness…let’s face it; most dogs don’t wait around for the appropriate time to lick our face or jump on us with overwhelming excitement when we walk in the door. Our exposure to the lack of rules and appropriateness actually releases us from our own restrictions and allows us to better express our feelings at the time we are feeling it. It’s very liberating!
Eye contact…Sarah shares that we get a burst of oxytocin each time we gaze lovingly into our dogs’ eyes…especially a downward gaze. Eye contact creates a powerful bonding moment when you can see the love looking back up at you.
Mutual empathy is something dogs are born with. Sarah explains that to a dog…YOU are their whole event. Watching you, studying you, knowing you is what they do best. So it’s no surprise that when you’re down your dog moves closer to you to comfort you. In a dog’s mind, you can do no wrong.
Shared activities…Sarah points out that humans have turned play into work…e.g. workouts, boot camps, hot yoga. What used to be play is now just an exhausting activity. She says that dogs teach us to “lighten up” when it comes to real play. They don’t want to power walk they want to walk and discover…to stop and smell the roses (and other things). Playing with our dogs is emotionally renewing and is a sure way to get our oxytocin flowing at the highest levels.
Ahhhhh…so that’s what happened to me when these crazy dogs walked into my life…surprised by affection, pumped with oxytocin and struck by pure and unconditional love. Lucky me!
Sarah Wilson is an international speaker on dog training, behavior and the human/animal bond. She loves both dogs and people; helping both species enjoy each other more has been her life’s work for over 25 years. She graduated from Amherst College with a liberal arts degree and from Lesley University with a Master’s degree focused on the human-animal relationship. Her experience includes managing kennels (large and small), assisting veterinarians and groomers, helping shelters and rescues, and training for various dog sports. She has appeared on PBS, CBS and ABC and is currently writing her 10th book.
Contact Sarah at Mysmartpuppy@gmail.com
Donna Potter is the owner and inventor of the Fusion Gate, a designer pet gate featuring a patented interchangeable art screen with an easy-to-use finial latch, walk-through door with automatic closure in both directions and the lowest threshold on the market. Donna loves her Golden Doodles, Dexter & Buster, and is a busy mom of four who is passionate about providing a smart dog gate that makes life easier for house-proud pet parents like herself.