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Oxytocin increases social bonding in dogs

T. Romero, M. Nagasawa, K. Mogi, T. Hasegawa, T. Kikusui

THE neuropeptide oxytocin has been shown to help in the formation of relationships in several species, including people. It plays a role in the regulation of pair-bonding, parental care, sexual behaviour, peer recognition and social memory. This study aimed to assess whether oxytocin affected the maintenance of close, non-sexual social bonds in dogs.

Sixteen pairs of owned dogs were included in the study. Pairs of dogs either lived in the same household or had daily contact with one another. One dog in each pair was involved in the first part of the experiment, while both dogs were used in the second stage. In the first stage, the dog and owner spent half an hour in an empty room. The dog could move about freely but the owner was asked not to actively interact with the dog. After 30 minutes, either oxytocin or saline solution was administered to the dogs intranasally using a spray bottle. Following this, the partner animal was introduced to the room and the two dogs and owner were observed for another hour, with the owners again not actively interacting with either dog. Each …

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