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Top 10 Scientific Discoveries About Dogs

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AG is a dog-friendly work space, so we made this list out of love for our little companions. The studies are from across disciplines studying physiological processes using neurological imaging, physics, and psychosocial ones as well. We are happy we work with animal diagnostic companies like Antech and IDEXX that also keep our furbabies healthy.

Scientific studies continue to show what our hearts already seem to know: that dogs are awesome.

smiley-dogs-cover AG is a dog-friendly work space, so we made this list out of love for our little companions. The studies are from across disciplines studying physiological processes using neurological imaging, physics, and psychosocial ones as well. We are happy we work with animal diagnostic companies like Antech and IDEXX that also keep our furbabies healthy. Below are other scientific studies on what our furry friends are capable of.

1) They prize our smell

Emory University Animal cognition scientists took scans of trained dogs using fMRI to measure their neural responses to smells of people and dogs. The five scents presented were self, familiar human, strange human, familiar dog, and strange dog. The olfactory bulb was activated to a similar degree by every scent, but the caudate nucleus (reward center of the brain) was activated to its MAX when it smelled a familiar human.

Results: Dogs prioritized smells of people they know over anything else!

See the article here: Scent of the familiar: An fMRI study of canine brain responses to familiar and unfamiliar human and dog odors (2015)

2) They can sniff out diseases in humans

Two German Shepard Explosion Detection Dogs that were trained to identify prostate cancer by sniffing out specific volatile organic compounds in urine samples. They sniffed for compounds on 362 patients with prostate cancer, ranging from low risk to metastatic, and on 540 healthy participants (control).
Results: They were able to smell the volatile cancer compounds in the urine!  Similar studies were performed to find they were also able to detect melanoma and colorectal cancers as well.
See more in the article: Olfactory system of highly trained dogs detects prostate cancer in urine samples (2015)

3) Humans and dogs both like happy sounds

Other neuroimaging studies, like the one at Eotvos Lorand University, studied how dogs responded to different human and different dog sounds which included voices, barks, and other meaningful grunts and sighs that both species make. Previously, there had been no study on canine brains and their response to humans making noise.
Results: Dog and human brains process emotionally laden vocal sounds in similar ways. Happy sounds lit up the auditory cortex in both species supporting why there is a strong communication between dogs and humans. This gives insight to the possibility that there may be general functions across all mammalian brains.
See more in the article: Voice-Sensitive Regions in the Dog and Human Brain Are Revealed by Comparative fMRI (2014)

4) Dogs drink faster than cats


Dogs interestingly do not have cheeks, so they lap water into their mouths. They literally cannot suck :). Researchers from Virginia Tech observed the physical mechanisms of dogs as they drink fluids and mimicked the motion of a dog's tongue in physical experiments and when it leaves a water source.

Results: Dogs move their tongue upward more quickly than cats do to get a larger amount of water to bite off. The observed mechanisms have shown there is an unsteady inertial regime for dogs and steady inertial regime for cats.

See more in the article: Dogs lap using acceleration-driven open pumping (2015)

5) Dogs respond to play signals given by humans

happy corgi
If you try patting the floor and whispering to a dog to come and play, it might not be as effective as running toward the dog, running away from them, or tapping your own chest. These signals greatly communicate the intent to play. Though these signals were not used frequently by people in the study, their human play signals were effective when they were accompanied by play vocalizations.
See more in the article: Do dogs respond to play signals given by humans? (2010)

6) They can read emotions in dogs and humans!

In this study, dogs were shown human or dog faces displaying different emotions (happy/playful vs angry/aggressive) which were paired with a single vocalization (positive/negative or Brownian). Dogs looked significantly longer at the face that was congruent to the valence of vocalization for both conspecifics and heterospecifics, an ability previously seen to be in only humans.
Results: Dogs can integrate these two sensory pieces of emotional information and understand the different positive and negative emotions from both humans and dogs.
See more in the article: Dogs recognize dog and human emotions (2016)

7) They're our oldest buddies!

Researchers submitted to Cell Research their article on the domestication of dogs and found that they have been human's best friend for at least 33000 years. The whole genome of sequences from a total of 58 canids (12 gray wolves, 27 primitive dogs from Asia and Africa, and a collection of 19 diverse breeds from across the world) were analyzed.
Results: Dogs from southern East Asia populations have high genetic diversity compared to other populations from and were most basal relating to gray wolves, showing an origin of domestic dogs in southern East Asia 33,000 years.
See more in the article: Out of southern East Asia: the natural history of domestic dogs across the world (2015)

8) Dogs are found to rely more on memory than smell

500 dog owners played the same games that researchers did in the laboratory to find out more about dog's cognitive skills and problem solving. Dogs watched their owner hide food under one of two cups and found most dogs went to where they last saw food instead of smelling each cup to find it. Five of the seven tests participants did corresponded to Duke's lab research on the subject. Duke compiled results on their Dognition sites where owners submitted their data.

Results: Dogs use a whole range of senses to problem solve, not using just smell to solve the issue.
See more in the article: Citizen Scientists Contribute to Dog Research (2015)

9) Therapy Dogs help improve Physiological and Psychosocial health in Heart Failure Patients

In this study, 3 different groups were visited for 12 minutes by either a volunteer with a therapy dog, a volunteer, or just received usual care (control), in a participant pool of 76 adults. Data was collected at baseline, 8 minutes, and 16 minutes.
Results: The volunteer and dog group had significantly greater decreases in systolic pulmonary artery pressure during and after the intervention and greater decreases in epinephrine and norepinephrine levels too. It also had the greatest decrease from baseline anxiety sum scores :)
See more in the article: Animal-Assisted Therapy in Patients Hospitalized With Heart Failure (2007)

10) Dogs and Humans build Bonds in 'Gazing'

Humans bond emotionally through eye contact which is mediated by the 'bonding' hormone oxytocin. Nagasawa et. al. show that these gaze-mediated bonding processes also happens between humans and dogs. Mutual gazing raised oxytocin levels and sniffing oxytocin increased gazing in dogs, which then affected owners. It overall supports the existence of an interspecies oxytocin-mediated positive loop maintained by gazing and the co-evolution of human-dog bonding by engaging common modes of communicating social attachment.
Results: Both species like looking at each other :)
See more in the article: Oxytocin-gaze positive loop and the coevolution of human-dog bonds (2015)

Video: "The Science of Dogs" [iframe id="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ZipzqCphi8s"]