Dogs Might Actually Understand How You Feel

"dogs emotional recognition"

They’re man’s best friend, and a new study found that dogs might actually understand how you feel through a basic knowledge of human emotion. The exceptional research found that our canine friends could actually read facial cues to properly understand what we’re feeling. And, from that, they meld their behavior to help.

That is why, for example, your dog might snuggle up to you when you’re saddened, or jump happily around you when you’re equally energetic. It’s one more reason to adore the already beloved furry pooch.

Researchers from the University of Lincoln, in Great Britain, and the University of São Paulo, in Brazil, conducted a study on 17 domesticated dogs. The experiment implied setting each dog in front of two images, showing an expression of an unfamiliar human or dog, and then playing one of three types of sounds. This included audio cues of happiness or playfulness, anger or aggression, and neutral, which was in the form of static.

The team of researchers attempted numerous combinations of images and cues to better observe the canines’ reactions. In order to make sure the results won’t be skewed, they used images of unknown people or other canines, and the voices spoke in an unfamiliar language for the dogs, specifically Brazilian Portuguese. When confronted with the two images, the subject would hear a sound overhead.

The longer they lingered on an image attached to the audio cue, the more the scientists could understand their capability of association a human expression with emotion.

When faced with images expressing happiness and anger, the dogs immediately made the correct association 67% of the time, with their gazes lingering on the corresponding image. Whether the sound came from another dog or human, they were able to make the right link between audio and visual cues. It wasn’t the case when all they could hear was the neutral static.

That showed an exceptional recognition of human emotion that was never believed to exist around primates. None of the dogs had received previous training, so their reactions were purely native. It’s a crucial factor that plays a major role in the relationship between humans and domesticated dogs.

According to Dr. Kun Guo, a researcher from the University of Lincoln, previous studies have shown that dogs can differentiate between human expressions. However, this is the first time that a study has shown hints of them engaging in emotional recognition. Their findings showed the dogs could take two different sources of sensory information and link them together.

Such a powerful cognitive capacity has only been seen in primates before, mainly humans. However, it seems that canines have a similar ability. These remarkable skills could be the pillars on which the very foundation of human to dog bonds are built every day, for every dog owner in the world.

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