Happiness in Animals?

Callie & Jenny

Of course! It seems like a simple question, but as is often the case, our big, complicated brains allow us to add nuance to the answer. I've gone on record as arguing that yes indeed, mammals like dogs and horses can be happy, how could they not be? Feeling good is a way for the body to tell the brain (as if they were separate, forgive me for this simplistic duality) that it is in an environment that is safe and healthy. The neuro-hormones associated with happiness, like dopamine and oxytocin are shared by all mammals, and expressive mammals like dogs have the same facial expressions as we do when we are happy ourselves. I write about this in the book For the Love of a Dog and show examples in the DVD of the same name. However, I was reminded that the question has more depth than "can a Read More

New DVD on Animal Assisted Therapy!

PMCC_DVD_Art&Science_f

We just released a DVD of the seminar I did in Naples, Florida on Animal Assisted Therapy and Activities, "Lending a Helping Paw." I'm excited about it, because it gives me the opportunity to help individuals and organizations who want to help others. It is an example of an activity we can do with our dogs that is a triple win (for us, our dogs, and people who need some oxytocin and/or physical therapy). Because of that, old social worker that I am, it's near and dear to my heart. Speaking of hearts, and what fills ours with happiness, the question arises about how effective AAT (Animal Assisted Therapy) and AAA (Animal Assisted Activities) really are. I remember a conference put on by the Delta Society many, many years ago that included a controversial study. It showed that, in this Read More

Oxytocin Increases When Your Dog Looks at You

A friend and colleague (Toni Ziegler, an internationally known primatologist) sent me an article in a journal I usually never see, Hormones and Behavior, and I was sure you'd be as interested in it as I am. The authors, M. Nagasawa et. al., found a correlation between the level of an owner's oxytocin and how much their dog tended to gaze directly at them. First off, you probably know that oxytocin is the "feel good" hormone that is associated with lactation and social bonding. Someone called it the "wine and candle light" hormone, because it seems to play an important role in social relationships and feelings of trust and affection. (People are more trusting of strangers if oxytocin is sprayed into their nose--leading me to speculate in For the Love of a Dog that we should all be armed Read More