A group of scientists recently published a research article in the Journal of Experimental Biology (pdf here) that sheds new light on why dogs love running so much. In particular, the scientists studied a class of hormones called “endocannabinoids.” These are hormones that are released in mammals’ bodies when running. Increased levels of endocannabinoids result in lower anxiety, and a comforting sense of well-being (not unlike when I consumed a large quantity of candy corn earlier today). While studies have shown that human physiology has many evolutionary attributes that seem to suggest a natural build made to endure the strains of running, it is now scientifically proven that dogs by nature receive substantially greater neurological benefits from running. Animals such as ferrets, meanwhile, really don’t like to run. Scientists discovered that the mental boost ferrets get for running is extremely low. Think you hate working out? Try being a ferret!
We already knew that dogs love to run. But this is a fancy scientific explanation for our reluctance to keep an equal pace with our dogs! I think if he were to add any further information to the study, Miles would comment that controlled (on-leash) running is far less endocannabinoid-ly rewarding than free “CHASE IT!” running. In other words, running just for exercise with a human companion can have an impact on the level of endocannabinoid release. First of all, the human’s like of the activity is “debatable,” which isn’t overly inspiring. Second of all, why waste all of that precious “chasing” energy? Just thought we’d contribute an important scientific variable…
Emma Kesler, CDBC, CPDT-KA is an award winning certified Dog Behavior Consultant and Dog Trainer who has worked exclusively virtually with clients from across the world for the past decade. Emma shares her life with her Welsh Terrier copilot Miles.
This is for all of the wild dogs out there, for the people who love them, and for those who want get to know them. You've come to the right place. 🐶
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