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Sloppy wet kisses, lots of jubilation and jumping, and now tears of joy?
Turns out yes.
When the dogs are reunited with their owners after being away from them for 5 to 7 hours, they cry with joy, a new study indicates.
The study, published in the journal Current Biology, was published on Monday.
“We found that dogs shed tears associated with positive emotions,” Takefumi Kikusui, of Azabu University in Japan, said in a news release about the study.
“We also made the discovery of oxytocin as a possible underlying mechanism.”
Kikusui and his team discovered dog tears after their two standard poodles had puppies six years ago.
Kikusui noticed that every time his dog nursed the puppies, there seemed to be tears on the dog’s face, although those tears did not fall like human tears.
The researchers used a standard test to measure the dogs’ tear volume before and after they were reunited 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 the volume of dogs’ tears before and after the pets were reunited with their owners.
They found that the volume of tears increased when the pets were reunited with their owners, unlike other humans whom the dogs did not know.
The researchers also knew from previous observations that both dogs and their owners release oxytocin during interactions, according to the news release.
“We had never heard of the discovery that animals shed tears in happy situations, such as when meeting their owners.”
That’s why they did the “reunification experiment,” to see if it made dogs cry.
That finding supports the idea that oxytocin release plays a role in tear production when dogs and their people are back together.
These findings suggest that dogs’ tear production helps forge stronger connections between people and their dogs, according to the release.
It also shows the strong emotional bonds between humans and their dogs.
While there’s still a lot they don’t know, Kikusui said the findings came as a surprise.
“We had never heard of the discovery that animals shed tears in joyous situations, such as when meeting their owners, and we were all excited that this was a world first,” he said in the news 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 remembered the reaction of his family’s German Shepherd when he returned home from basic training.
She had already had puppies by then.
He had been away from home for about a year at that point, and the puppies, who did not know him, began to growl as he approached the house.
But Schatzi, the mama dog, was “as happy as can be, she was wagging her tail, jumping over the fence to say hi to me,” he said.
All of the puppies also instantly changed their behavior towards him, he said.
“That was a great dog,” he said.