If you feel like your pup is the only one who truly understands you, you aren't far off. A new study released by the University of Lincoln has revealed that dogs understand human emotions — as if you didn't know that already, what with your favorite pooch always snuggling up to you when you're blue, or bounding around you, jumping up and down, when you're equally energetic. The study found that dogs don't just mirror the emotions of their humans, but that they can actually combine an array of information using different senses to observe human emotions, something that, until now, we thought only humans were capable of.
The study was conducted by a team of animal behavior experts and psychologists at the University of Lincoln in the U.K., and University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, and subsequently was published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters. Researchers conducted the study by showing 17 domesticated dogs images of both humans and other dogs displaying different emotions, both positive and negative, and coupled each with a corresponding auditory cue. What they found was that the dogs would look longest at the photo of the emotional expression that corresponded with the sound being played.
None of the dogs were given training, or were familiarized with any of the images or sounds they were shown or played before the experiment, meaning that their responses weren't learned, but intrinsic. The report says that this is pivotal in understanding the way dogs interact with humans, and why.
Dr. Kun Guo, from the University of Lincoln, who worked on the study, reported “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.”
This is yet another reason to love the absolute guts out of your poochy pal, and it makes it all the more disgusting when dogs are abandoned or abused. Dogs: they're just like us.