We’ve talked about the bond that dogs have with us, the relationship and emotions that are generated, and the strong bond that dogs feel with their humans. But what about the bond that you feel with your dog? That can be emotionally trying, rewarding, and overwhelming too.
The human-canine bond is studied by psychologists, anthropologists, ethologists, and anthrozoologists. The study of this area is not new; research goes back to the 1930s with studies of imprinting and geese, and the 1970s and psychotherapy and pets with children.
According to Wikipedia, there are three main theories concerning the human side of this bond. They are the biophilia hypothesis, social support theory, and the self psychology theory.
Biophilia is largely attributed to Edward O. Wilson who researched and wrote about this in 1984. He defines it as “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life.” Biophilia means the love of living things, and Mr. Wilson proposes with his hypothesis that this deep love of life is rooted in our biology. Keeping plants around your house is a reminder of food, of sustaining life. A love of animals is a reminder of support and sustaining life.
Social Support Theory
Social support is also simply seen as companionship and necessary for overall well being. Mental health can benefit greatly by service dogs and companion dogs and many humans rely heavily on this. For many people suffering with mental health issues (like PTSD), or medical issues (like epilepsy), the support of an animal is necessary.
Self Psychology Theory
This is a bit more abstract, and if you ask me, it sounds a bit unhealthy. Treating an animal as a “self-object” can give a person almost a sense of purpose, support, and unity. It is a feeling that you are stronger and more capable with your animal in your presence than without. The animal creates your personality.
There are studies (I have quoted some of them in multiple previous posts) that reference the fact that animal owners have decreased blood pressure, heart rate and breathing, and overall better health. The same goes for the dogs! Dog’s oxytocin levels increase when they see their human companions and generally experience what we would call joy in the presence of their humans.
The benefits of dog ownership are tremendous. Regardless of which bond theory you identify with the most, your bond with your dog is strong and it is special. No one knows your dog the way that you do. And no one knows you the way that your dog does. Keep that bond and reinforce it!