While we might not think too much about it, our pets are stuck at home when we’re at work or left in the care of someone else when we’re on vacation. Sure, they’re glad to see us when we get back, and they might enjoy their time with your relatives or close friends but do they miss you when you’re not around?
Well, if you’ve ever had a dog then you know that it really does seem like they do miss us when we’re not there. My dogs seem to do much better when I’m around than when I’m not. I feel like they’re just as attached to me as I am to them. While I’d love to bring my dogs on long trips (on the rare occasion that I’d take a long trip) but because one of them gets car sick and another one would drool everywhere traveling with them isn’t ideal at least for long rides.
Sure, I miss my dogs and you might miss your dogs but the verification that they do actually miss us when we’re gone is nice to have so yes, they do miss us. There is neuroscientific evidence that shows they truly do miss their owners. This research was proven through by doing MRIs on dogs and studying their brain activity. They even get excited when they smell their owners as it lights up a region in their brains associated with rewards.
While the way our dogs miss us might be a bit different from how we miss them, they don’t just forget us when we’re gone. That having been said it’s hard to decide whether they just want the familiarity or something else of the sort. Personally, I’d still miss my dogs whether they missed me or not but I do love knowing that I’m important to them since they’re so important to me.
Gregory S. Berns wrote as follows on the topic for Psychology Today back in 2013:
Now two years into a project to train dogs to go into an MRI — fully awake — so that we can better understand how their brains work, I believe the answer is: Yes, dogs miss us when we’re gone.
The Dog Project began as a proof-of-concept. We simply wanted to determine if dogs could be trained to hold still enough to acquire quality fMRI data. We started with two dogs — Callie, my adopted feist, and McKenzie, a border collie. We trained them to recognize the meaning of two hand signals, one of which was associated with a food reward. The fMRI data clearly showed responses in the caudate nucleus to the “reward” hand signal. But that was just the beginning. For the story and more, see my latest book: What It’s Like to Be a Dog.
Confident that we could collect fMRI data in awake dogs, we sought the help of Atlanta’s dog community. And they responded. With an outpouring of support, the team of MRI dogs has swelled to 15 and continues to grow. Now more than a cute dog trick, with a sizable cohort of subjects we can begin to answer real questions about canine cognition and emotion.
All of the dogs have completed the hand signal experiment. Mostly, we use this as their “final exam” to prove that they can do it. But it has also given us useful data on how variable the caudate response is between dogs. We almost have enough data to sort out breed differences and what makes for good therapy dogs.
The team has also gone through a second experiment to examine how the dogs’ brains respond to the scent of different members in their household. While in the MRI, we have presented to the dogs their own scent, the scent of familiar and strange humans, and the scent of familiar and strange dogs. We have not published these results yet, but I believe it is a smoking gun for canine emotions and proof that dogs really do love their humans, even more than their fellow canines.
For more information on how dogs miss their owners and things of that sort take a peek at the video below. It really puts things into perspective. Sure, we might get frustrated with them sometimes but they really are ‘man’s best friend.’