Research carried out in the U.S. has indicated that most women’s minds respond to their dogs the same way they do their children.
During the study, which was conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital, a group of 14 women who had at least one child aged between the ages of 2-10 and a pet dog were enrolled in the study. The dog had to have been a part of the family for two years or more.
Participants were interviewed in their home and filled out several questionnaires, including ones that were about their relationship with both their dog and their child. During the visit, photos were taken of the pet dog and the child for use during the next stage of the study.
For that part of the study, each subject was put into a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine (fMRI). While there, they were shown pictures of their own child and their own dog. During the test, their brain responses were constantly monitored.
The study found that the participants reacted the same way to pictures of their dog as they did to those of their child. Their brain responses were the same or very similar for both, yet when they were shown pictures of other dogs and children, their brain response was neutral.
Luke Stoeckel, who co-led and authored the study, said that although it was conducted on a small scale, it shows the power of the common brain network crucial to forming bonds within pairs.