Our brains on puppies

A Neuroscientist Explains Why You Can’t Help But Love Puppies

Posted by Nikki Wardle on September 5, 2018 at 10:23 AM
Nikki Wardle
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Neuroscientist Shannon Odell loves to study the brain and ask why certain things affect us so much, from alcohol to cuddling. In a recent video, Shannon tackled a question we may all wonder: why do we love puppies so dang much?

Even self-avowed dog dislikers usually can’t say no when a tiny, wet, soft nose is looking in their face with those adorable puppy dog eyes. And it turns out, there’s a scientific reason why.

Babies Make Our Brains Go Nuts

Scientific research suggest that the baby-like features of puppy’s faces—including their rounded faces and large eyes—do a number on our brains. Our brains are wired to respond to the faces of human babies, triggering reward circuits that give us pumps of oxytocin and dopamine, the “cuddling” and “pleasure” hormones. The same thing happens when we see those darling doggies in all their puppy glory.

In some studies, the brains of mothers even reacted in similar ways to pictures of their children and pictures of their dogs, suggesting that as far as our brains are concerned, Fido really could be your baby. Baby-like features known as “baby schema” in puppies and human infants activate innate nurturing responses, triggering reactions in the nucleus accumbens, which brings on feelings of attachment and reward. Maybe this could explain why some women get "baby-brain".

Bring on the Baby Talk

Have you ever heard yourself talking to a puppy or a baby and thought, “Wow, when did I turn into Minnie Mouse?” Bringing your voice up an octave and using simplistic pronunciation—commonly known as “baby talk”—is a common innate response when communicating with babies and puppies, and it turns out, science knows why we do that, too.

Baby talk actually assists in language development with human babies since human caregivers subconsciously slow their speech, avoid complicated words, and use a soft, sing-song tone. Baby talk on puppies has also been shown to help modulate their behavior, keep their attention, and aid in training. So bring on the baby talk! 

Is it Time for a Puppy?

One scientific study has found that just looking into the eyes of a puppy can increase the release of oxytocin in your brain, leading to feelings of happiness, calm, and well-being. So, does it mean it’s time for you to bring home a puppy?

Now you have a scientific reason why you may need a new puppy, and besides, we’ve heard they’re far less expensive than babies.

But before you bring a puppy home to get your oxytocin fix, remember that they are a big responsibility and a long-term commitment. If you have any questions about bringing a puppy home, we'd be happy to talk you through any of your questions or concerns. Call any one of our locations or send us a message.

Topics: Puppy Care