Did you know your dog knows when you’re sad?

By:  Yash Guwalani

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There have been countless studies on how dogs react to their owner's feelings, do they know when he’s sad? Does she gets happy when she’s happy? Your dog must be a very good listener but does he knows when you’re feeling down?

Well, the answer is yes, negative emotions are contagious for dogs. They can pick up a friend’s (we mean owners, companions or any other canines) bad mood just by sound.

Emotional Contagion is the most basic form of empathy” says Annika Huber and her colleagues, the University of Vienna's Clever Dog Lab.

 

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Studies like these on other animals like rodents and birds have proven existence of Emotional Contagion in these animals. The studies on pet dogs are not different, and have shown signs of empathy in them. A dog always respond negatively to the sound of babies crying or when an owner pretended to cry. (But when owners faked a heart attack, their dogs failed to solicit help from a bystander.)

To learn more about emotional contagion in dogs, Huber and her colleagues recruited 53 adult pet dogs. The dogs were a variety of breeds, as well as mutts. Then the team tested the dogs’ responses to sad sounds.

There were recordings of humans either laughing or crying, dogs barking, whining. There were other sounds that didn’t carry any emotion like crickets, rain, birds and neutral human speech. The dogs were in an experimental room while their owners sat nearby (reading a magazine and wearing headphones), the recording were transmitted through speakers.

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Everything was recorded, both visually and audibly. Researchers analyzed videos of the trials- to see what reactions the dog had. Did they have a negative or uneasy reaction, including barking, whining, scraching, yawning, lickeing their lips, streching, shaking, wagging their tails, panting or freezing? Did they look towards their owners, or walk over to them.  

As the researchers hoped for, the dogs responded very casually to non emotional sounds (nature sounds, birds chirping or neutral human talking) than in response to emotional sounds (humans laughing or crying, dogs barking or whining). There was a strong response to the sounds of negative emotions as compared to the positive ones. They were uneasy in response to their owners being sad or a dog whining his heart out. The dogs which got frozen stayed frozen for long periods.

 

“Despite equal degrees of attentiveness, dogs had a stronger negative reaction to hearing the negative emotions of people and other dogs. This could make sense evolutionarily. If an animal is displaying negative emotions because it’s in a dangerous situation, it would be wise for nearby animals to pick up on those feelings” the authors writes.

Aren’t you stunned? A dog’s olfactory abilities are so great that they can potentially sniff out cancer in humans leave emotions.

Let your dog owner friends know about their dog’s potential; tag!

 

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