This is no surprise to pet lovers: dogs know how you’re feeling. A recent study by animal behavior experts and psychologists the University of Lincoln, UK, and University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, shows “dogs truly recognize emotions in humans and other dogs.”
Researcher Dr Kun Guo, from the University of Lincoln’s School of Psychology, explained: “Previous studies have indicated that dogs can differentiate between human emotions from cues such as facial expressions, but this is not the same as emotional recognition.
“Our study shows that dogs have the ability to integrate two different sources of sensory information into a coherent perception of emotion in both humans and dogs. To do so requires a system of internal categorization of emotional states. This cognitive ability has until now only been evidenced in primates and the capacity to do this across species only seen in humans.”
Feeling depressed? Your pup will pick up on that. Dogs are able to identify the positive and negative emotional states of people and other dogs.
Co-author Professor Daniel Mills, from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln, added: “It has been a long-standing debate whether dogs can recognize human emotions. Many dog owners report anecdotally that their pets seem highly sensitive to the moods of human family members.
“However, there is an important difference between associative behavior, such as learning to respond appropriately to an angry voice, and recognizing a range of very different cues that go together to indicate emotional arousal in another. Our findings are the first to show that dogs truly recognize emotions in humans and other dogs.
“Importantly, the dogs in our trials received no prior training or period of familiarization with the subjects in the images or audio. This suggests that dogs’ ability to combine emotional cues may be intrinsic. As a highly social species, such a tool would have been advantageous and the detection of emotion in humans may even have been selected for over generations of domestication by us.”
The study was published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters in January.