Playing and interacting with your dog like you did in the Dognition games increases your oxytocin, the hormone responsible for feelings of pleasure, bonding, and affection.
It is quite impressive that, during a limited amount of time, Bella yawned when you yawned. Humans laugh when we see someone laughing, and we cry when we see someone in distress. Our ability to "catch" the emotions of others is called emotional contagion. A common form of emotional contagion is yawning. If you see, hear or even think about someone yawning, you will probably feel an irresistible urge to yawn. Contagious yawning is related to empathy scores in adults.
If Bella could take a human empathy test, she would probably score quite high! So far, only a few species besides humans have been shown to contagiously yawn. Although dogs may yawn when they are stressed, they also yawn socially. Contagious yawning has been seen in dogs, but not all dogs yawn. It looks like Bella is one of the empathetic ones.
Recent studies have shown that dogs only catch yawns from humans, not other dogs.
Eye Contact Game
Dogs can even be better than aspirin. Children in a hospital reported that their pain was four times less when they played with a dog than when they spent the same time relaxing.
In this game, you timed how long Bella held your eye contact. Before babies can hug or speak, they use eye gaze to bond with their mothers. Research with dogs has shown that a similar phenomenon may happen with owners and dogs. Owners whose dogs stared at them for longer had significant increases in the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin, also known as the "hug hormone," is related to feelings of bonding, pleasure and affection.
Judging by the extraordinary length of time Bella spent gazing soulfully into your eyes, you probably often find her staring at you for no reason. You might wonder if Bella is trying to tell you something, like she is hungry, needs to go to the bathroom or has an opinion on what to do over the weekend. But Bella may not want or need anything - she may be just hugging you with her eyes.