If you or someone you love is a “dog mom,” did you know that you now have a day to call your own? I didn’t know that! My dogs always had to compete with my sons to celebrate me on Mother’s Day. But there is an actual U.S. National Dog Mom’s Day which falls on the second Saturday in May, the day before Mother’s Day.
The push for a day to celebrate dog moms came from Dig, a dating app for people who love dogs. Founded by a pair of sisters, Leigh and Casey Isaacson, Dig was created to help dog lovers connect.
(Fun fact: a survey found that 40% of people admit to having swiped right on a dating app not because they wanted to meet that person but because they wanted to meet the dog in the picture.)
Dig wanted to make sure that dog moms had their own special day, so they put together a change.org petition and promoted the idea to the National Day Calendar. In 2018 the first U.S. National Dog Mom’s Day became a thing!
Dogs Are Family, Too
When you think about it makes sense to have a National Dog Mom’s Day. For years, an increasing number of people have been insisting on calling themselves “dog parents” instead of dog owners. 85% of households with dogs consider them to be family members.
In fact, multispecies families are being increasingly acknowledged by legislative bodies. A few states have passed laws instructing divorce courts to treat pets of battling couples not as property but as family members. And since 2006, the PETS Act has given FEMA a charge to act on the behalf of not just people but animals during emergencies.
A Lot in Common with Parent-Child Relationships
A glance at recent studies reveals a lot about why people find the bond between them and their dogs so familial. It turns out that we aren’t just imagining the connection. After 30,000 years of hanging out with humans, dogs have become hard-wired to sense what we’re feeling and make the most of that ability.
A study at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna likened the relationship between dogs and their humans to that of children and parents. Describing the “secure base effect” relationship between dogs and their owners, the researchers discovered that dogs acted much the same way as infants and toddlers when faced with something unfamiliar or frightening in their environment.
Unlike horses or cats, which run away from the unknown, dogs often run to their trusted human–a secure base. If you have a toddler or you’ve ever spent time with one, this should all sound pretty familiar.
The study discovered that dogs performed tasks, such as a new puzzle, with far more interest and confidence when their person was present than when a stranger was in the room. Even if their person was completely disengaged, just the fact that he or she was nearby made the dogs secure enough to explore new things. In the presence of the stranger, dogs would not engage with the new toy.
When dogs respond to us like children do, is it any wonder we’re inclined to consider them our kids? And it’s not our imagination. Dogs truly do need our help to survive in this human-driven environment we’ve put them in.
Referring to the same Viennese study, John Bradshaw, biologist and author of Dog Sense, agrees with the findings but cautions against the temptation to treat your dog like a child. Your dog is a dog with very dog-specific needs, needs that do not include being dressed up in adorable outfits or fattened up with excessive treats.
You Are Not Imagining That Bond with Your Dog
The feeling is real. Ever heard of oxytocin? It’s the hormone that drives uterine contractions when a mother is in labor and strengthens her bond with her baby later on. It’s powerful warm and fuzzy mama stuff, in other words.
A Japanese study of dogs and their owners demonstrated that interacting with your dog can increase the presence of oxytocin in your brain. Researchers studied 30 bonded pairs of dogs and humans, letting them spend thirty minutes playing together and looking into each other’s eyes. Everyone involved–men and women–experienced an increase of oxytocin in their brains afterwards.
This bears repeating: dogs have the power to produce in us the same warm, fuzzy parental hormone that infants do. Maybe it’s the way they look into our eyes. Dogs are the only non-primate species to do that. We are a sucker for those puppy dog eyes–and they totally know what they’re doing when they turn them on us! Dogs are attune to us and know how to turn on the charm. When our attention is on them, dogs turn up the volume on facial expressiveness.
Dogs Feel It, Too!
Dogs feel the love, too. A study done with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) showed that the reward center of a dog’s brain lights up when their person speaks, even if not in a happy, playful tone of voice. A boring, neutral tone also does the trick. The more attached the dog is to a person, the greater the sense of reward.
So We Agree, Dog Mom’s Should Have Their Day
SO go ahead and celebrate Dog Mom’s Day with pride! Hopefully your pup can enlist some human assistance in celebrating you. Maybe he could get a little help making you a card with his pawprint on it or treating you to a day at a spa. After all, if your doggo loves getting pampered at the groomers, Mom should love it, too, right?
Even better, why not spend some quality time together? Take a long walk somewhere beautiful; snuggle on the couch together, play fetch in the park; work on a fun trick. The bond between you and your dog is special. Now Dog Mom’s Day provides an annual reminder to nurture it.