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Sloppy wet kisses, lots of jubilation and jumping — and, now, tears of joy?
Turns out, yes.
When dogs are reunited with their owners after being away from them from 5-7 hours, they tear up with joy, a new study indicates.
The study, published in the journal Current Biology, was released on Monday.
“We found that dogs shed tears associated with positive emotions,” Takefumi Kikusui of Azabu University in Japan said in a media release about the study.
“We also made the discovery of oxytocin as a possible mechanism underlying it.”
Kikusui and his team discovered the dog tears after his own two standard poodles had puppies six years ago.
Kikusui noticed that whenever his dog was nursing the puppies — there seemed to be tears on the dog’s face, though those tears weren’t falling like human tears.
Researchers used a standard test to measure dogs’ tear volume before and after reuniting with their owners.
“That gave me the idea that oxytocin might increase tears,” Kikusui also said.
Oxytocin is described as the “love hormone,” according to Kikusui.
So he proceeded with an experiment.
His team of researchers used a standard test to measure dogs’ tear volume before and after the pets reunited with their owners.
They found that tear volume increased when the pets were reunited with their owners, as opposed to other humans whom the dogs did not know.
The researchers also knew from earlier observations that oxytocin is released in both dogs and their owners during interactions, according to the press release.
“We had never heard of the discovery that animals shed tears in joyful situations, such as reuniting with their owners.”
That’s why they ran the “reunification experiment” — to see if it brought dogs to tears.
That finding supports the idea that the release of oxytocin plays a role in tear production when dogs and their people get back together.
These findings suggest that dogs’ tear production helps to forge stronger connections between people and their dogs, according to the release.
It also shows the strong emotional bonds between humans and their pet dogs.
While there is still much they don’t know, Kikusui said that the findings came as a surprise.
“We had never heard of the discovery that animals shed tears in joyful situations, such as reuniting with their owners, and we were all excited that this would be a world first,” he said in the media release.
Said a New York resident who grew up with dogs as a child, “There is joy, there is memory — dogs are smarter than people think.”
He recalled the reaction of his family’s German shepherd to him when he returned home after basic training.
She’d had puppies by then.
He had been away from home for about a year at that point—and the puppies, who didn’t know him, started to growl as he approached the house.
But Schatzi, the mama dog, was “as happy as can be — she was wagging her tail, jumping up on the fence to greet me,” he said.
All of the puppies instantly changed their behavior toward him, too, he said.
“That was a great dog,” he said.