New research suggests dogs can understand our emotions

Monday 11th June, 2012 by Claire Lodge.


New research has confirmed what all dog lovers knew anyway – that our beloved pets can feel our pain and understand our emotions.

A recent study highlighted the fact that dogs nuzzle and lick humans when they think they are in distress. What is more, tests also suggested that they behave in a submissive manner when we are most upset, in an apparent attempt to offer greater comfort.

The results of the study were revealed after eighteen pet dogs were tested with their owners – and then strangers – in different circumstances – talking, pretending to cry, and humming.

The test, conducted by Deborah Custance and Jennifer Mayer, from the Department of Psychology at Goldsmith’s, London, also came to the conclusion that, if they thought someone was crying, far more dogs would come up and touch that person, again in a show of sympathy and understanding.

The eighteen dogs that were tested were all different breeds and ages and were analysed during four separate 20-second experimental conditions.

In its summary, the test said it was obvious from the research that a significantly greater number of dogs approached a person who was perceived to be crying than someone who was merely talking.

Similarly, they responded in a genuinely comforting attitude to anyone who showed distinct signs of distress, irrespective of whether it was their owner or someone they had never come into contact with before.

The conclusion was that the responses of these dogs were not driven by mere curiosity, but rather by an emotional feeling generating great empathy.