Your Dog Knows If You're Upset And Will Try To Comfort You

Dogs will come to their owner’s aid regardless of the circumstances

Dogs will come to their owner’s aid regardless of the circumstances

'Every pet owner has a story about coming home from a long day, sitting down for a cry and the dog's right there, licking their face.

Plenty of research has shown that dogs respond to signs of their owner's distress, such as crying, but it hasn't been clear to what extent pups will try to make their owners feel better. But now we have scientific proof that man's best friend cannot only read human emotion, but will go out of their way to comfort you if they think you're in need. In order to study this claim, the researchers recruited 34 dogs and their owners for a social experiment. Subjects included classic companion dogs like golden retrievers and Labradors, small dogs like shih tzus and pugs, and several mixed breeds. Dog owners might say it's time spent with humankind's furry best friends.

"It seems like the dogs [who didn't go through the door] would get more and more stressed by the crying but that they then sort of became paralyzed and [were] not able to do anything", Meyers-Manor told Live Science.

Dogs whose owners were crying opened the door three times faster on average than dogs whose owners were humming. Others were requested to hum the song "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star".

Not necessarily. While about the same number of dogs in each group opened the door, dogs responding to owner distress did so much faster - after an average of 23 seconds, compared to nearly 96 seconds in the humming group.

Past research seemed to indicate that dogs would not help their human companions in distress, but it's possible that the tasks to demonstrate "help" were too hard for a dog to understand.

During the task, the researchers measured the dogs' stress levels.

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It only took the dogs in the crying group an average of 23 seconds to open the doors, while the dogs in the humming group took an average of 96 seconds.

'We found dogs not only sense what their owners are feeling, if a dog knows a way to help them, they'll go through barriers to provide to help them, ' said lead author Emily Sanford.

I'm on my way! It turned out that the dogs that simply didn't open the door were too stressed out by their owner's crying to do anything. The humans' crying seemed to affect the dogs' behaviors, taking just a quarter as long to push open the door and get to their human if they seemed distressed. We did not find any differences between therapy dogs and other pet dogs.

The research team wanted to see if the dogs would open the door more often when their owners cried.

Dogs have always been known as being man's best friend and for good reason. "But they want to be with their people even quicker if the person is crying than if they're humming". This may mean that dogs who opened in the humming condition were seeking their owners for their own comfort.

The study's title, "Timmy's in the well: Empathy and prosocial helping in dogs", refers to an American cultural icon: Lassie, the canine superhero of 1950s TV, known for rushing to retrieve help for her person Timmy, a boy who had fallen down a well. "I knew that we had to do a study to test that more formally".

In this task, the dog learns to tip over a jar to get to a treat; then we lock the jar onto a board with a treat inside and record whether the dog gazes at its owner or a stranger. Among dogs who did open the door, those who scored highly on a separate owner bond test, which involved measuring how much a pet gazed at its person during a frustrating situation, tended to open the door quickly, signifying that dogs who feel attached to their owners want to help. To behave empathetically toward another individual, you must not only be aware of the distress of another person, but also suppress your own stress enough to help out. And as to whether dogs want to help their owners or just want to alleviate their own sadness - that remains unclear.

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