Dogs Really Do Feel What You Feel
For dog lovers, the idea that man’s best friend can feel our pain is not in doubt – and now research is lending weight to the idea.
Dogs nuzzle and lick humans they think are in distress, behaving in a submissive manner designed to offer comfort.
Eighteen pet dogs were tested with their owner – and then strangers – talking, pretending to cry, or humming.
Far more dogs come up and touch people when they think they are crying.
‘The humming was designed to be a relatively novel behaviour, which might be likely to pique the dogs’ curiosity. The fact that the dogs differentiated between crying and humming indicates that their response to crying was not purely driven by curiosity,’ explained Dr Deborah Custance of Goldsmiths, University of London.
‘Rather, the crying carried greater emotional meaning for the dogs and provoked a stronger overall response than either humming or talking.’
Dr Deborah Custance and Jennifer Mayer, both from the Department of Psychology at Godldsmith’s, London, developed an innovative procedure to examine if domestic dogs could identify and respond to emotional states in humans.
Eighteen pet dogs, spanning a range of ages and breeds, were exposed to four separate 20-second experimental conditions in which either the dog’s owner or an unfamiliar person pretended to cry, hummed in an odd manner, or carried out a casual conversation.