Head over paws

Why do we find puppies to be so irresistible?

Head over paws

Had a stressful day at the office? Just received some bad news? Or maybe you’re dealing with a breakup and you need to feel warm and fuzzy inside just to get through the day? There is a ridiculous amount of cute animal pictures on the internet that will provide you with just that. Puppy pictures can thaw the most frigid of hearts and turn the most uptight of people into halfwits. One can very easily say that falling in love with a puppy is one of the easiest things that one can do.

So how does it work?

These miniature bundles of weapons grade cuteness are adapted to evoke these reactions out of even the most rational of people. We have nature to thank for this as the human brain has evolved to take special notice of cute physical features like disproportionally large, round heads with big round eyes and large foreheads commonly found in infants and small animals. These features are called Baby Schema, and these fire up the mesocorticolimbic system in the brain to trigger caretaking behaviour in adult individuals. This is done by means of a dopamine rush in the brain resulting in an opioid like euphoric feeling and satiating our brain’s reward system. It’s no wonder that some people spend hours binging on the kitten and puppy images littering the internet. Fortunately for infants of most species, this mechanism has ensured the necessary care to reach adulthood in one piece.

What we should be careful of

Exposing your brain to so much cuteness can lead to a form of addiction where the victims of this cuteness overload end up making rash decisions to get the same dopamine rush. Impulsively buying a puppy is one such rash decision. Unfortunately for all parties involved in this transaction, a dog will not remain a puppy for long. Most dogs soon grow up and mature to develop more proportional adult features and lose the ability to evoke the same emotions that they once stirred. This is the main reason why so many good dogs end up in dog shelters. Potential owners should do their best to see through the smokescreen that cute puppies create in our brain and think through the important decision to own a dog with a clear head. Only after going through this thought process should one fall in love with a puppy; making sure that one is fully aware that the puppy will soon grow up to replace one’s infatuation with its cuteness with a more rewarding relationship built on loyal companionship and understanding.

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