Have you ever been comforted by your dog when you’re having a bad day? It’s almost like they know when you’re feeling sad or angry, and come along with a little snuggle or nudge to lift your spirits. New studies are proving this isn’t all in your head. Your dog really does pick up on changes in your mood … in pretty amazing ways.
In a 2016 study, researchers showed dogs a series of images, some of the people and some of the other dogs. The images had a corresponding audio component that was either happy or angry. The dogs engaged longer with the images that matched up with the audio, for example: a happy face with a happy vocalization. Scientists concluded that because they interacted longer, they recognized the emotions and were trying to connect with them.
This process is far more complex than we assumed was possible, but it does make sense. Dogs and humans have been living side by side for thousands and thousands of years, and domesticated dogs know that they’re dependent on humans for survival. The ability to connect emotionally with humans means they’re more able to get what they need when they need it since they can alter behavior that doesn’t result in a positive outcome like affection or treats.
The surprising part for researchers was that dogs were able to connect easier with the images of other dogs than with the images of humans. Perhaps this just means that even after all these years, the bond between species is still much more powerful than the bond they share with humans.
Here’s another very interesting finding: according to an article by National Geographic, the ability to connect with humans on an emotional level can also be manipulated by our furry friends. Yep, that’s right, they know they can pull at our heartstrings with that “sad puppy” look in their eyes and get more head scratches or treats out of us. So, the next time you get that look from your pup, see if you can tell whether it’s genuine or if it’s all an act.
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