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Dogs’ Love Illuminated

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While positive trainers and pet owners already know with certainty that their dogs love them, science is catching up to this truth. An April 2016 opinion post on the Pet Helpful website discusses recent research on the emotions dogs experience. Neuroscientist Gregory Berns of Emory University has conducted the most well-known research, with results published in his book How Dogs Love Us, in The New York Times, and through other media.

Dr. Berns and his team studied the canine brain using MRI—and well-trained dogs! The dog subjects, trained with positive methods to remain in a functioning MRI enclosure, originated with Dr. Berns’ own adopted dog, Callie, and expanded to a full team of agreeable volunteers. What Dr. Berns’ research found is that dogs prefer the sight and scent of their human owners above those of other humans and other dogs.

MRI images of the dogs’ brains taken at the time of exposure to the various people and animals show the area of a dog’s brain called the caudate nucleus lighting up at the sight or scent of their familiar humans. This brain activity duplicates that of humans as they recognize someone they love!

Evidence that dogs are sentient beings, that their emotions can match human emotions, quite naturally leads to a review of training philosophies and methods. If dogs suffer from some training methods more than has been believed, the hope is that the use of positive training will expand as more people discover these findings and similarities. Of course, there is also the potential that this kind of research into the canine brain can lead to yet-to-be-discovered positive methods—discoveries that result in more efficacies and enjoyment, and that will be welcomed by clicker training proponents worldwide.

Read the full article.

Learn more about Dr. Gregory Berns and his research.