Best friends share more than secrets. They share biology. Read More
I wrote a piece about oxytocin last year: "The Key to Canine Evolution: How a Simple Molecule May Have Created the Pack Instinct." http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/my-puppy-my-self/200904/the-key-cani...
My theory starts with the idea that the pack instinct in wolves (and other canids) is what enables them to hunt large prey by working in concert. This ability to cooperate while hunting is rare in nature. There are only two other mammals that routinely hunt and kill animals that are larger and more dangerous than themselves: human beings and some members of the dolphin family.
Most mammalian predators leave their parents when they reach adolescence. Not so wolves? Why the difference?
If the wolf pups kept producing oxytocin well into adulthood, their parents would still feel bonded to them. So by keeping this emotional bond intact, nature was able to create part of the mechanism necessary for group hunting.
I also think oxytocin is a factor in the domestication of dogs as well.
I read your post and enjoyed it. A kindred spirit indeed. And if you haven't already, you MUST read my book. I have lots more science in it to support your idea about how wolves became dogs. And the latest genome study out of Robert Wayne's lab at UCLA--the one that traces dogs back to the Middle Eastern Wolf, has another bomb (I belive)in it.
He found a significant variation in a gene that causes Williams Syndrome in humans. If you don't know WS, look it up. It causes hyper gregariousness, intense need to make eye contact, some kinds of retardation, facial structure changes (nose, eyes, and wide smile) and smaller teeth. My hypothesis: Dogs are wolves with Williams Syndrome. OK that's a bit glib, but guess what other gene is linked to WS? Oxytocin.
I'm working on this now with Wayne. I am having his lab check for variation in the OT and AVP gene in the dog and wolf genome. I'll post what I find. All the best, Meg
My review of Meg's book, Made for Each Other, just came out in the APDT Chronicle of the Dog (I'll post it on www.playfulpooch.org soon). As a child/family psychologist very interested in animal-human relationships and the involvement of dogs in play therapy with children, I see this book as a very important addition to the literature. It is packed with science, yet written in a very easy-to-read and interesting manner. It's one of the best books on this important relationship of humans and canines that I've seen! I think everyone with an interest in animal-human relations, animal-assisted therapy, canine professionals, psychologists, and those who share their lives with dogs will learn a great deal while enjoying it. I read the book twice before I wrote my review, and I'm planning to read it again - it's that good!
Great post - We've seen the effects that dogs can have through AAT and assistance dog partnerships; it is really interesting to see just how deep that bond goes. Your link to the paper (bond-with-petsfinal.pdf) appears to be broken - is there another way to access it?
Psychological Assistance Dogs UK
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Meg Daley Olmert is documentary producer and the author of Made For Each Other, The Biology of the Human-Animal Bond.
When and how should we open up to loved ones?