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Here’s scientific evidence that backs up what you’ve always known: You love your dog as much as (or, in some cases, more than) your family members.

Japanese researchers observed 30 dog owners and their pets, and found that when they looked into each others’ eyes, there was a surge of oxytocin, the hormone associated with love and attachment, which acts as an agent to bond parents and children. The longer they locked eyes, the more oxytocin was released. When dogs were given extra doses of oxytocin through nasal spray, the female dogs gazed at their owners even more than before, although the male dogs did not.

The researchers also conducted the same research on wolves and the humans who raised them. They found that wolves barely looked at the humans — likely because wolves usually use eye contact to size up competition — and oxytocin levels did not go up for the wolves or people. The study, published Thursday in Science, suggests that over the course of co-evolution, dogs “likely insinuated themselves even more deeply into human society by ‘co-opting’ the behavior and the neural machinery that draw humans together in tight pair-bonds,” the Los Angeles Times reports. So go ahead, this is all the proof you need that it’s OK to keep treating your dog like he’s your kid. Catherine Garcia