As pet owners, we know that our dogs love us, but sometimes we’re a little uncertain about why. They get so adorably excited each time we walk through the door after work, but we can’t help but wonder what’s powering all that tail wagging. Are they really just that jazzed to see our face after a long day, or are they just hopeful that our presence means that food is soon to follow?
A new study shows that your dog does love food (duh) but that he probably does love you as much as you’d like to believe he does. The research was conducted by Dr. Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist and author of What It’s Like To Be a Dog. Berns fed pooches hot dogs some of the time and offered up praise some of the time. He then compared each pup’s response to see which made them more apt to tail wag, and discovered that the dogs responded equally positively to both food and to praise.
This research leads Dr. Berns to believe that pups love their owners at least as much as they love food. You can’t really expect more than that, can you? Berns also noted that 20 percent of the animals he studied were actually more receptive to the praise than the food, so it’s entirely possible that your pup really does love you more than treats.
It makes your four-legged friend’s happy howling, pacing, and jumping when you come home at the end of the day even more special, doesn’t it?
Lauren Levine is a freelance writer who has contributed to publications and websites including The Charlotte Observer, U.S. News & World Report, American Way magazine, The Huffington Post, Hello Giggles, Bustle, Thrillist, Thought Catalog, and others.