Here's How Your Dog Knows What You're Feeling
There’s a reason your dog always seems to know how you’re feeling, what emotions your working through and even when you need a little attention…
Have you ever noticed that no matter what emotions you’re experiencing you dog always seems to know just what to do?
Whether you’re sad or happy they know just how to look at you, approach you and give you the affection you need.
Well it turns out…they know exactly what they’re doing.
In new research, dogs have been shown to understand a wide range of human emotions, simply by observing facial expressions and vocal ques.
The study published in the journal Biology Letters, was designed to help researchers better understand the emotional connection between humans and their pets.
The lead author of the study Natalia de Souza Albuquerque, a Ph.D. candidate in experimental psychology at the University of São Paulo in Brazil says, “we still didn’t know if the dogs…can somehow understand that a happy facial expression is positive, and a negative facial expression is negative.”
However, when the dogs were exposed to images and sounds made by both humans and dogs, such as a happy dogs face coupled with a playful bark, the dogs were much more interested in the screen and stared at it much longer.
Their level of interest in the image and sounds was a clue that they indeed were able to identify emotions.
In contrast, when the dogs heard a sound that was more neutral, they lost interest and focus. And instead of their attention remaining on the screen, they became distracted, looking around instead of focusing on where the noise was coming from.
This indicated to the research team that the dogs were in fact able to identify the lack of emotion displayed on the screen.
Smart Little Fella’s
According to team leader de Souza Albuquerque, the responses displayed by the dogs were not consistent with an instinctual or learned behavior, instead it was a sign of intelligence.
She went on to explain, "The dogs had to extract the information from the sound, then associate this information with the image, and that involves very complex psychological mechanisms."
What was also surprising to the research team was that the dogs were even better at recognizing the emotions of other dogs than they were humans.
And according to de Souza Albuquerque, "it makes sense to think that dogs already have that ability [to emotionally connect] and use that, and develop that, to interact with humans."
Some researchers think evolution may play a role in this. After all, dogs and humans have been coexisting for at least 30,000 years.
The Emotional Connection
In the future de Souza Albuquerque and her team plan on investigating how dogs react emotionally and how they use their emotional intelligence to interact with humans.
For example, some scientists have been looking at the way dogs often manipulate their owners in efforts to get what they want.
One study showed that dogs really do use the “sad puppy face” when looking at their owners intentionally, in efforts to gain sympathy and an emotional reaction.
According to de Souza Albuquerque, "they're very adapted to the human world especially the human emotional world.”
But dogs aren’t just good at identifying emotions, they’re also good at judging character.
Trust Your Dogs Instincts
In a recent study published in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioural Reviews researchers looked at whether dogs can ascertain if someone is being nice or not.
In the study, dogs showed the ability to tell whether someone was acting nicely or not and they adjusted their behavior accordingly.
Researchers had each dog’s owner pretend to struggle with opening a container.
They then instructed them to ask two research assistants for help.
In one instance, the research assistant simply sat there and didn’t help, but didn’t say anything either. The other was instructed to either be helpful or refuse to help.
After the experiment the research assistants each offered the dog a treat.
The dogs graciously accepted the treat from the helpful assistant as well as the one who just sat there.
But they refused to treat from the assistant who refused to help.
What this showed was that the dogs could in fact determine the character and intention of the person and responded appropriately.
You Can’t Fool Your Dog
So, next time you’re feeling happy or sad or even nervous, pay attention to how your dog responds. It may surprise you just how in-tune they really are.
And based on these latest study, they’re bound to nail it every time.