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Do Our Dogs Love Us?

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

All right. We love our dogs so much so that we gave them a whole holiday called International Dog Day, which happens to be today. But do dogs love us in return? Well, the science says yes.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Clive Wynne directs the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University, and he explained to our colleagues on NPR's podcast Short Wave about an experiment that tested dogs' responses to two things that just about every pooch seems to want - humans and food.

CLIVE WYNNE: What's so interesting there is that the reward center of a dog's brain lights up to both of those signals. And in most cases - not all cases - in most cases, the center lights up more intensely when the dog is given a signal that means your human is just around the corner than when the dog is given a signal that means a piece of hot dog is just on its way to you.

CHANG: The experiment, Wynne says, was conducted by Gregory Berns. He's a scientist who studies dog psychology. To confirm his findings, Berns had the dogs stand 10 feet away from a bowl of food and their human beings, and the dogs had to choose between them. And what he found was, on average, the dogs chose their humans.

CORNISH: So to everyone, even those without a dog in this fight, happy International Dog Day. You can hear more about Berns' study on NPR's daily science podcast Short Wave.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LOVE MY DOG")

CAT STEVENS: (Singing) I love my dog as much as I love you. You may say my dog will always come through. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.