Spot: Man’s Best Friend or Emotionally Exploiting Parasite?

by Noah Zimmer

Throughout the years one of the most beloved animals has been living symbiotically with its human counterpart. Dogs receive food and housing while humans gain love and affection. This bond between man and dog may have originated thousands of years ago, but why? Recent scientific studies propose that mans best friend abuses the very hardwiring of our brain to survive.

The human brain is a fascinating organ. Chemicals it produces do many things, like making us run from a lion or compelling us to nurture a newborn child. These innate actions have helped us survive, but other species have learned to tap into our emotionally frail minds and live off of us like a parasite, most notably the dog. Takefumi Kikusui questioned how we formed bonds with this common household animal. Kikusui observed that the predicament came from the most innocent part of a dog possible: puppy dog eyes. Our data suggests that owner dog bonding is comparable to human parent-infant bonding, that is, oxytocin-mediated eye-gaze bonding.Oxytocin is a hormone that helps develop trust and bonding with infants. It gives you that warm fuzzy feeling.The experiment had owners and dogs gaze into each other’s eyes for 30 minutes. Afterwords the oxytocin level in both humans and dogs increased. Even though most animals associate eye contact with threats, there is a possibility that dogs cleverly and unknowingly utilize a natural system meant for bonding a parent with his or her child.

Roughly 15,000 years ago, dogs first diverged from wolves. Back then to endure hard times they would survive off of leftover bones. Now to win over the hearts of humans they used their manipulative looks. Another researcher, Evan MacLean, stated that dogs might have come to recognize the importance of gaze between parents and children and then saw how that helped them build a similar relationshipOne fun evolutionary scenario might be dogs find a way to basically hijack these parenting type responses.Another experiment conducted by MacLean involved showing a mother pictures of her own child, another child, her dog, and another dog. They found similar responses between pictures of her child and dog, but no response from someone else’s child and dog. It seems that in the mother’s eyes, her dog is worth as much as her own child and even more so than someone else’s.

Looking at how we seemingly befriended these adorable fuzzy leeches can shed another light on the subject. As writers for National Geographic Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods believe that the dogs domesticated us. In the story of how the dog came in from the cold and onto our sofas, we tend to give ourselves a little too much credit. The most common assumption is that some hunter-gatherer with a soft spot for cuteness found some wolf puppies and adopted them.They continue to explain that this assumption makes no sense. In ancient times, humans lacked tolerance for carnivorous animals. In England, we hunted wolves to extinction. They concluded that wolves probably approached us first. The wolves that were bold and mean were killed off, but the wolves that were bold and friendly were allowed to stay. These friendly wolves gradually adopted floppy ears and wagging tails. In addition they gained the ability to read human gestures. Between these lovable qualities and the clear advantages of owning a dog, we allowed dogs into our household.

While many people love their pets, they should still be wary that the affection only comes from a hardwired hormonal response. Dogs have spent centuries upon centuries perfecting their craft to make sure their species as a whole survives.  So next time you find yourself in a pet store choosing a companion, keep in mind that they are actually the ones choosing you.


IMG_1668Noah Christopher Zimmer, a dog loving sceptic, is a simple man. When not spending his nights investigating new ways to procrastinate, he dazzles the common folk with magic tricks. Being 6’2″ he thrives on his unnatural limbo capabilities, feel free to challenge him any time. He lives by his favorite quote: “If life gets you down, make a jacket”.


  • Paige Ardizzone

    This is a very well written essay. The way that you tie in all the information and research to help further your point flows very nicely. What caught me by surprise was the research given by Evan MacLean. To think that dogs could recognize the importance of building a relationship between parent and child through gazes and then dogs using that to help them form relationships is amazing. Owning two dogs myself and working with dogs at various shelters I would definitely say that puppy dog eyes are hard to say no to. Overall, I really like your essay and this is a very interesting topic.

  • Raia Stamm

    This is a very interesting take on a bond that is often times taken for granted, or undervalued. Through your research you raise several untraditional questions about the domestication of dogs, or, as you mentioned, the domestication of humans. By posing these questions with the accompaniment of research, it makes them sound much more valid and forces the reader to seriously think about how “mans best friend” came to be. The untraditional take on this topic is what makes it so interesting and I commend your “outside of the box” thinking.

  • Jesse Eisberg

    I find this paper exquisitely different. It is a real eye opener and I personally love dogs, but you have made some solid points. This paper is definitely worth reading and I would recommend it. After reading this I now have a different view on dogs.

  • Isabelle Lada

    Very well written essay. I like how you took a factual, but also personal perspective on the essay. Even though you love dogs, you did well arguing the side of someone who sees dogs as more than just a cute pet. The conclusion ties it all together and gives the reader something more to think about.

  • Jocelyn Waggoner

    Many a time I have seen this argument told from a different standpoint, but never in my years of reading have I heard this approach. I really enjoyed this entry as it shows a very unexplored of the whole pet scenario. A way to perhaps make this a more compelling paper would to add more about where the sources and studies come from and perhaps add some statistics to further explain the studies. I also think that this paper has a certain degree of irony and satirical writing that should be capitalized more on, for example, create a more gruesome picture as how they have almost domesticated humans into believing that we need to have this animal living in our home, walking and feeding it twice to three times a day. Another thing you could do is add about how they are kind of just free-loaders that just lay around all day while the humans work to take care of them, similar to a teen who has outstayed their welcome after high school in their parent’s basement playing video games all day.

  • Mickey Mann

    Dear Noah,
    What an awesome twist on our most beloved animal. It’s very difficult to make a concept like this believable and I will never look at my dogs the same way. Your valid points and intriging point made it fun to read. Although I don’t see it as a bad thing. If my dogs are happy manipulating me and I’m happy being manipulated…Why would I change? Either way I won’t look at my dog the same when he comes to the door to say hello. Thank you for enlightening me on what’s really going in the head of my silent furry friend.
    -Mickey M.

  • Elin Johnson

    This is a very well-written essay. I have never even entertained the thought that my perfect canine companion was anything less than pure goodness and am shocked to find out there is evidence of otherwise. You seamlessly worked in the research in a way that flowed very well with the rest of the essay. I appreciated the way you described the science side of things in a way that every audience could understand with ease. The humorous tone was very subtle, which made the reader take the content very seriously. All in all, a fabulous essay with a creative topic.

  • Kobe Blackwell

    This is quite an interesting topic that would compel most pet owners to read. Also, the essay is nicely done, with an organized beginning to end, and reliable information to help support the argument. I have cats that seem to just convince me to do anything for them, as long as they give me those cute and gazing eyes, so I can see a lot of in this argument.

  • Admund

    I knew it all along, how can an animal be complacent to be tamed and not love to be free or wild unless it chooses to be for a reason.

    BUT one most important thing is if we train & bond with it well, the love it shows to it’s master is genuine and it’ll risk it’s life for you, to protect you.

    That I must say to be fair to it. <3

  • Noah Zimmer

    You have an awesome name and bring much honor to us Noah Zimmer’s of the world.

    Noah Zimmer
    (A Noah Zimmer from Georgia)

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