Don’t you wonder what’s in your pup’s head? I do. There’s something truly special about the bond with our dogs.
We treat them as companions, they hear our greatest fears, know our craziest dreams, and witness when we’re down in the dumps. We allow dogs into our private lives, allowing them to be more than just a pet – they quickly become our best friends. I felt that my Hachi had such admirable qualities – a certain calm, centered energy. He would just stare at me. I’d always try to figure out what he was thinking.
I wanted to be Hachi.
And while I experienced this closer-than-this bond firsthand, it’s hard to explain why we form such deep bonds with our pups. We don’t even speak the same language!
But now, thanks to new research, we’re learning why dogs have been our best friends and why they will continue to be.
Understanding a Dog’s Emotions Made Easy
Many people, when asked about their relationship with their dog, will note their dog’s eyes, saying that they have the ability to feel what they are feeling. There is a sense of empathy experienced when you look at a dog – one that can immediately make you feel better. Looking into a dog’s eyes, you feel instantly connected.
Why does this happen?
Research from the University of Vienna is beginning to be able to explain why. Through their studies, these researchers are learning that dogs can “catch” emotions, which makes that feeling of empathy so powerful. When you’re sad or happy, your dog can distinguish between the two. Then, your pup will match their behavior to mirror what you are feeling.
That’s why when you are sad, your dog will sit with you for comfort.
These studies also showed that dogs can empathize not just with humans, but with other dogs too. When they heard a human crying or a dog whimpering, their behavior changed. Emotional content, whether positive or negative, invoked emotional responses from dogs. Non-emotional content, however, did not have the same result. Who said dogs have no feelings?
Dog’s Respond Strongly to Positive Emotions
One of the researchers in the study, Annika Huber, said that she was “surprised by how the dogs responded to positive emotional sounds.” She went on to say that the dogs “paid the same level of attention to them as to negative emotional sounds, but did not express negative emotion behaviors in the same way.”
What all of this means is that a dog’s emotions reflect its surroundings and the people and animals in it. When a dog hears a negative sound, they aren’t just reacting in fear; they are understanding that sound on a fairly advanced emotional level.
A dog, in other words, has the ability to exhibit empathy.
Our dogs are sensitive. We’ve known this. But just how sensitive they are to emotions is even a surprise for the researchers who’re studying their behavior. Understanding a dog’s emotions is becoming easier for all of us.
Because our dogs can so accurately read our emotions and reflect it back to us, it’s no wonder that we feel such a deep connection with our furry friends. By mirroring our feelings, we feel understood and accepted. That’s very powerful stuff.
What’s happening in your life that causes your dog to act in a certain way? Let me know in the comments. When you learn more about your dog, they’ll learn more about you, too!