Humans love their pet dogs in the same way as they do their children, and the feeling is mutual. Here’s why we love our dogs: Researchers found that the same hormone, oxytocin, spikes in both human and canine brains when a dog is gazing at its owner.

Oxytocin is known to play a strong role in triggering feelings of unconditional love and protection when parents and children look into each other’s eyes or embrace.

So the findings suggest that owners love their pets in the same way as family members, and dogs return their devoted affection.

The results suggest that humans may feel affection for their companion dogs similar to that felt toward human family members.

Oxytocin plays a primary role in regulating social bonding between mother and infants and between sexual partners. Oxytocin creates a ‘neural feedback loop’ that has strengthened the bond between man and ‘his best friend’ for millennia.

Dogs have become attuned to our social cues in the same way young children are. For example, when dogs are presented with an impossible task they quickly turn to humans to see what to do, just like children do. Wolves don’t do that.

Our relationship with dogs is very much like parent child relationships. We respond to our dogs quite a bit like human children. Brain imaging studies have shown that brain networks of mothers respond in the same way to pictures of their own dog to their own children.

The researchers say that the paper shows that dogs feel like a child of the family, rather than the underdog in a pack. How beautiful is that?