Unlike its wolf ancestor, dogs turn to humans for help when faced with a problem. Even when raised by humans, wolves do not seek as much human contact. However, variation exists in how social dogs are towards humans. Oxytocin and their receptor genes are known to influence mammalian social behaviour. Oxytocin is a nine amino acid neuropeptide produced in hypothalamus of mammals. When oxytocin is released in the brain, it has the ability to affect behaviour. Recent studies have shown that when dogs look at their owners, the concentration of oxytocin in the urine of the owner increases. This in turn facilitates owner/dog interaction, hereby increasing oxytocin concentrations in the dogs. The oxytocin receptor is the protein to which oxytocin binds to and it is encoded by the oxytocin receptor gene. Polymorphisms or variations in the oxytocin receptor gene are known to impact social behaviours.
As the underlying mechanisms behind the effect of oxytocin receptor gene polymorphisms on social behaviour remain unclear, the aim of this study was to investigate if dogs’ social behaviour, specifically “human-directed contact seeking behaviour” is affected by:
- Administration of an intranasal oxytocin spray
- Variations in the oxytocin receptor gene
- And if it is affected by variations in the oxytocin receptor gene, do different genotypes react differently to oxytocin treatment?
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Last updated: 07/27/16