On October 5th, we had eight mixed breed puppies (terriers & beagle mix) available for adoption. We announced on Facebook that the puppies would be available at 3 p.m. Some people messaged and asked more questions, but most just needed to decide on whether they wanted a puppy or not. The adoption fee for the puppies was only $25, thanks to a grant from the Bissell Pet Foundation for a week-long promotion called Empty The Shelters. The puppies were vaccinated, spayed/ neutered, and microchipped. People began to show up at 2:30 p.m. The puppies were brought out of our veterinarian services clinic and placed in a temporary kennel. People were let into the area one at a time to select a puppy and then go to one of our get-acquainted cabanas to play with the puppy. In less than twenty minutes, all of the puppies were adopted.
Why are humans so drawn to dogs and puppies? With their big, round eyes, button noses, and large heads, puppies share many of the same physical characteristics as human babies. Like babies, as well as kittens, teddies, and many cartoon characters, puppies provoke an automatic ‘cute re-sponse’ in us. They grab our attention. We enjoy looking at them; at a neural level, they trigger activity associated with reward, compassion, and empathy.
In humans and other animals, this re-sponse is an evolved, innate behavior that motivates adults to look after helpless in-fants and to be more sensitive to their needs and feelings. It makes sense, then, that a recent study found that puppies reach peak cuteness at eight weeks of age, just the time when their canine mothers leave them to fend for themselves.
Studies have shown that even small interactions with dogs cause the human brain to produce oxytocin, a hormone called the “cuddle chemical.” Oxytocin increases feelings of relaxation, trust, and empathy while reducing stress and anxiety.
A 2016 study focused solely on dogs was published, showing that dog owners feel their dogs have made their life better in some way. Seven in ten (71 percent) dog parents say their pup has made them happier, with nearly four in five saying it’s easier to wake up in the morning because their dog greets them.
Do puppies understand I love you? Yes, your dog knows how much you love him! Dogs and humans have a very special relationship, where dogs have hi-jacked the human oxytocin bonding pathway normally reserved for our babies. When you stare at your dog, both your oxytocin levels go up, the same as when you pet them and play with them.
The most challenging time of raising a puppy is the adolescent period. Dogs become “teenagers” and seem to forget everything they have ever been taught. This period is individual to each dog, but it may begin when he’s about eight months old and continue until he’s two years old. This means I still have one more year to go with Mini-Cooper being a teenager!
I was helping a senior couple in their 80s who wanted to adopt a small female dog around four years old and no more than 16 lbs. Two dogs became available, but one was three months old, and the other was 14 years old. They asked if I could get somewhere in the middle. Both of the dogs I mentioned have been adopted.
If you are interested in adding a pet to your home, please visit HHS and adopt, don’t shop.
Barry KuKes is the Community Outreach Director for the HHS, Daytona Beach. He can be reached at 386. 274.4703, ext. 320, or barryk@halifax humanesociety.org