VCA Animal Hospitals

Experiment proves dog and man connect at heart level

Published: Jul 25, 2012

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Many pet owners can feel the love in their heart when they spend time with their canine companion, and as it turns out, the hearts of man and dog actually beat in sync. When two humans feel love and care for each other, their hearts literally beat together - a phenomenon called entrainment. Dr. Rollin McCraty, the director of research at the Institute of HeartMath, wanted to find out whether this also happens with humans and their beloved dogs, Care2.com reports.

In an experiment with his son, Josh, 14, and the family dog, Mabel, 15, McCraty measured the heart rhythms of the two using electrodes that he attached to both participants. In the experiment, Josh entered a room where Mabel was waiting, sat down and consciously sent feelings of love and care toward Mabel, then left the room.

When Josh entered the room and gave loving attention to Mabel, his heart rate lowered and its rhythms became more ordered. This seems to have influenced Mabel's as well - her rhythms followed this same pattern, becoming more coherent and in sync with Josh's. When Josh left the room, Mabel's heart rhythms became chaotic and disordered, suggesting mild separation anxiety.

While there is still no way to truly measure love and emotion scientifically, particularly between species, McCraty's experiment was certainly telling of the positive effect humans and pets can have on each other's feelings of wellbeing.

This bond is clear when owners spend time with a pet, but this experiment may also explain the extreme grief many people experience after pet loss. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, grief over the loss of a dog or cat can embarrass and confuse many people, but they are understandable and normal emotions for anyone experiencing the loss of a loved one, whether human or not. 

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