Oxytocin is a peptide hormone that is produced by the hypothalamus and is released by the posterior pituitary (Nagasawa et al. 2015). The hormone plays an essential role in social bonding and affection (Powell et al. 2019). Oxytocin levels also play an essential role in a healthy dog-owner relationship (Peterson et al. 2017). A surge in oxytocin levels is overserved when the dogs interact with their owners (Marshall-Pescini et al. 2019). This research proposal aims to determine the changes in the oxytocin levels in the domestic dogs at different instances of bonding and separation from their owner. This proposal presents a summary of the study methods and statistical analysis of the data.
Aim: Changes in the oxytocin levels in the domestic dogs determined by presence of owner
Hypotheses: The dogs and the owners are known to have a positive relationship, therefore, presence of owner around dog should increase the oxytocin levels of the dog. Separation of dog from owner should indicate lowered levels of oxytocin.
Study Group and Participants
Volunteers within 50-km radius were asked to take part in an experiment involving dogs on emotions
Volunteers could complete a form to decide if they are a good fit with questions about their level of connection with their dog (if they’re not connected at all exclude them).
Sapling: Stratified sampling.
Experimental design elements
Of the volunteers 60 were chosen at random to take part in the experiment
Of those 60, 30 were chosen at random to part of the experimental group and 30 were randomly chosen as a control group.
On day 0 saliva samples were taken and oxytocin levels were tested and recorded for each individual dog in each group.
On day 0 a second sample of saliva was taken from experimental group following separation from family and oxytocin levels were measured and recorded.
On day 6 saliva samples are taken again from each individual dog and oxytocin levels were measured and recorded.
On day 14 saliva samples are taken from each individual dog and oxytocin levels were measured and recorded.
On day 14 a second sample of saliva is taken from each dog from the experimental group directly after dogs have been reunited with family. Oxytocin levels on measure and recorded then compared.
Assuming all dogs were treated well with their owner before the start of experiment.
All dogs are treated in a neutral environment to avoid emotions influenced (bias) during the experiment.
Dog’s mental health would be an ethical consideration. Method- statistical test: For comparing measurements from one dog (e.g. initial and during separation or during separation and after reuniting)- A paired t-test examines the mean difference between two sets of non-independent data (I.e. before & after measures).
For comparing values between the separated dog group oxytocin levels and the nonseparated control group- An independent samples t-test.
For mean hormone level management at day 6. Repeated measures of ANOVA could be used.
Could account for inter-observer variability by having the same person take measurements the whole time or having the same person take all of the day 0 measurements and have the same person take all the day 14 measurements etc.
Could account for intra-observer variability by taking all measurements (OT levels) twice and taking the mean of these as the values we use.
The statistical analysis of the data collected has been done by using t-test and ANOVA. The p-value obtained is 0.012. The significance levels of 0.012 indicate that the difference is observed 1.2% of times with no complete difference in the analysis. The results are considered to be significant with p-value is lower than 0.05 or 5%. The statistically significant data indicates that there is less than a 5% chance that the results are random (Blæsild and Grandfeldt 2018). This suggests strong evidence for the analysis. Therefore, the study suggests that the oxytocin levels are significantly altered by the presence of the owner around the dog. This result indicates that the presence of a dog around the owner helps in building a happy and reliable environment around the dog affecting their mood and happiness.
Blæsild, P. and Granfeldt, J. 2018. Statistics with Applications in Biology and Geology. CRC Press.
Marshall-Pescini, S., Schaebs, F.S., Gaugg, A., Meinert, A., Deschner, T. and Range, F. 2019. The role of oxytocin in the dog–owner relationship. Animals, 9(10), p.792.
Nagasawa, M., Mitsui, S., En, S., Ohtani, N., Ohta, M., Sakuma, Y., Onaka, T., Mogi, K. and Kikusui, T. 2015. Oxytocin-gaze positive loop and the coevolution of human-dog bonds. Science, 348(6232), pp.333-336.
Petersson, M., Uvnäs-Moberg, K., Nilsson, A., Gustafson, L.L., Hydbring-Sandberg, E. and Handlin, L. 2017. Oxytocin and cortisol levels in dog owners and their dogs are associated with behavioral patterns: an exploratory study. Frontiers in psychology, 8, p.1796.
Powell, L., Guastella, A.J., McGreevy, P., Bauman, A., Edwards, K.M. and Stamatakis, E. 2019. The physiological function of oxytocin in humans and its acute response to human-dog interactions: A review of the literature. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 30, pp.25-32.
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