If you own a dog, then you know the joy they bring to our lives. They become part of the family. In our home, Ben, our Scottish Terrier, is like one of our children. We are so connected emotionally that Ben knows when we are feeling sad or are sick. He will come over to me and nudge my arm until I pet him, just when I am about to cry. When I ask him if he wants to go outside, he gets excited and actually smiles. Yes, I said smile. Pets even begin to look like their humans in some families!
Is it possible that dogs can read the emotions of humans and other dogs? A new study released by Biology Letters found that dogs can recognize emotions using audio and visual cues. They also recognize certain facial expressions paired with sounds, and associate those with specific human emotional states.
In the study, dogs were presented with photos paired up with certain sounds. The emotional sounds either did or didn’t match up with the facial expressions in the images. If the dog stared at the image that matched the emotional sound longer than those that didn’t match, researchers surmised that the dog was able to identify the emotional state. They found that dogs also know how their humans will react based on their body language.
Dogs form strong attachments with their owners. How many times have you read a story about a dog walking 1,000 miles to come back to a family? Or the story of the grief-stricken dog not leaving its deceased master’s grave site? We are not just an emotional support system for them, but they are one for us, too, making this a very special relationship indeed.