Recent studies suggest that dogs have the ability to respond to our emotions better than any other species, including humans – according to an article in the Daily Mail. A study at Goldsmith University has shown that dogs will spot people who are displaying emotional unrest such as crying, and approach them to nuzzle them whilst behaving in a submissive manner to offer comfort.
This is thought to be due to thousands of years of ‘best friend’ partnerships between humans and dogs, resulting in a unique bond between human and animal. Dogs will even approach strangers with similar levels of concern as their owner, regardless of any expectations they may have of rewards or care.
Research was carried out by Dr Deborah Custance and Jennifer Mayer from the Department of Psychology at Goldsmiths University using 18 pet dogs which ranged in age and breed. The experiment involved four 20-second conditions which either the dog’s owner or a stranger pretend to cry, hummed in an odd manner or carried out a casual conversation.
The results showed that there was a significant trend in the dogs approaching humans who showed signs of distress i.e. crying, than if they were talking or humming. This showed the experts that dogs recognised emotional distress and aimed to respond to it.
This tells us that we have trained and domesticated dogs to respond sensitively to our emotional cues after years of breeding and keeping them as pets. They really are a man’s best friend!