Intranasal administration of oxytocin promotes social play in domestic dogs

Teresa Romero*, Miho Nagasawa, Kazutaka Mogi, Toshikazu Hasegawa, Takefumi Kikusui

*Corresponding author for this work

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In a recent paper,1 we examined whether oxytocin in the domestic dog modulates the maintenance of close social bonds in non-reproductive contexts. We found that exogenous oxytocin promotes positive social behaviors not only toward conspecifics, but also toward human partners. Here we examined in further detail the effect that oxytocin manipulation has on social play. When sprayed with oxytocin, subjects initiated play sessions more often and played for longer periods of time than when sprayed with saline. Furthermore, after oxytocin nasal intake dogs displayed play signals more often than after saline administration, suggesting that oxytocin enhances dogs’ play motivation. To our knowledge, this study provides the first evidence that oxytocin promotes social play in the domestic dog. We use these results to hypothesize on the potential therapeutic use of oxytocin for promoting social behaviors and treating social deficits in the domestic dog.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCommunicative and Integrative Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jun 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • companion animals
  • domestic dogs
  • oxytocin
  • social bonds
  • social play

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