Puppy love

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For me, the hardest part of being away at school is dealing with the separation between my best friend and I: my dog. Daisy, my little, white teacup maltipoo, who I adopted my freshman year of high school, is always glued to my hip whenever I am at home no matter how long I've been away from her. Because of Daisy, it is clear to me that dogs are extremely loyal to their owners. However when dogs show affection or try to comfort their owners, do they recognize that their owners are upset or distraught?


I found an article that detailed research published in the journal Animal Cognition that found pet dogs may be man or woman's best friend if a person is in distress and the individual does not even have to be someone the dog knows. http://news.discovery.com/animals/dogs-empathy-humans-120831.html

Deborah Custance and Jennifer Mayer, both from the Department of Psychology at the University of London Goldsmiths College, exposed 18 dogs representing different ages and breeds to four separate 20-second human encounters. The human participants included the dogs' owners as well as strangers. The researchers found that when the humans began to cry during the encounters, the majority of the dogs comforted the person, owner or not, when that individual was pretending to cry. The dogs nuzzled and licked the person, the canine version of "there there." Custance and Mayer said this behavior is consistent with empathic concern and the offering of comfort. But why do dogs respond in this manner?

In an article by Stanley Coren Ph.D., he gave a possible explanation to this question saying that some researchers suggest that when your dog sees your emotional distress they are in effect "infected by it" and, in response to their own feelings, they come to nuzzle you. Their aim is not to comfort their human, but rather to gain comfort for themselves.

In another article, Kaitlin Flynn said that scientists think canines may need to also smell and hear signals tied to actual stress or sadness in order to respond. In an experiment she mentioned, dog owners feigned a heart attack or pretended to experience an accident in which a bookcase fell on them and pinned them to the floor. The dogs in these studies just looked confused and didn't do much, but this could have been because the canines need to smell and hear signals in order to react.

If dogs do empathize with us, do you think some are better able to do this than others? Why do you think dogs respond to human emotion?





1 Comment

I love this article. I definitely believe that animals do possess the same emotions and instincts that we do. I do believe in the disparity in dogs when it comes to empathizing just like how humans do. Dogs try to match their own emotions with humans in order to connect us on a deeper basis. Hence why do this. Dogs want to show us that they love us as much we as love them.

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