Can a dog recognize when a person is crying
June 13, 2012
Dog parents and animal lovers everywhere have held onto the belief that canines have an amazing ability to empathize with humans, but only recently has science taken a closer look. According to USA Today, a group of scientists from Goldsmiths College in London recently put together a cutting-edge experiment that tracked dog reactions when confronted with a variety of situations that could separate the differences between simple curiosity, a desire for attention or genuine comfort-seeking and expressions of concern.
The news source reports that the scientists compiled a group of 18 dogs, with an equal split of males and females that were predominantly mixed breeds. One of the lead researchers, Jennifer Mayer, who had not met any of the dogs previously, would team with the dogs' parents. Mayer would play the part of a stranger and would enter the dog's home. Both Mayer and the pet parent would alternate between crying and humming "Mary Had A Little Lamb" in 20 second intervals. The researchers then ranked the demeanor of each canine into four states - calm, submissive, playful and alert.
After performing these experiments, 15 of the 18 dogs approached the crying researcher or owner, and 13 of these canines exhibited signs of calm or submissive behavior. While some may argue that a dog that approaches a crying human will most likely receive affection and will learn this from their parents, the canines in the experiment showed no distinction between the caretaker that would usually dole out this affection and the "stranger" who joined the other individual in the experiment.
"If the dog's approaches during the crying condition were motivated by self-oriented comfort-seeking, they would be more likely to approach their usual source of comfort, their owner, rather than the stranger," Mayer told the news source. "The dogs approached whoever was crying regardless of their identity. Thus, they were responding to the person's emotion, not their own needs."
This study is one of many groundbreaking examinations of common dog behavior and just how in-tune some canines are with human emotion. If you're thinking of exploring the many ways a dog can brighten your life, adopting a dog from a New York animal shelter is a great step in the right direction. Bideawee's website has a complete listing of dogs available for adoption in your area to help you begin the search for your new furry companion.