National Puppy Day


March 23 is National Puppy Day.

Yes, there is a national day for everything, from National Sauerkraut Day (second Wednesday in October) to celebrating the hippopotamus, National Hippo Day (which slid by February 15), but arguably March 23 celebrates cuteness like no other.

There are actually science-based explanations as to why we find puppies so darn cute.

We have accidentally or on purpose – or a bit of both – bred dogs (some breeds considerably more than others) to be particularly appealing to us as puppies. In developmental psychology, “babyness” and neoteny correspond with certain visual qualities which evokes a strong and hardwired caregiving response in humans.

Puppies have large heads relative to their bodies, big round eyes and in some ways look primate-like, even specifically human baby-like. Those large eyes and large foreheads create an oxytocin response in humans. Walk by a puppy on the street and it warms your heart, or actually your head. The hormone oxytocin surges from the hypothalamus in your brain, and your smile. Try not to smile when looking at puppies, even images of puppies. TV commercials and print ads have forever used puppies in ads to sell all sorts of products for a reason.

Still, another factor is that is human beings literally evolved with dogs around 40,000 years ago.

Studies demonstrate that unless a human has been raised in a dog aversive culture or has had a bad early experience with a dog, it’s exceedingly likely that most are actually attracted to puppies, from their cute wiggles to silly antics.

Oxytocin, sometimes called “the love hormone” is a positive hormone and is associated with good health. There are a myriad of studies demonstrating that even though puppies can wreak havoc and are mischief makers, sharing our lives with them, and for that matter with adult dogs, benefits our health in multiple ways.

So while celebrating sauerkraut or the hippopotamus is acceptable, National Puppy Day is arguably a bit more special.