Dogs Try to Comfort Upset Humans, Study Shows

By Andrew Magnotta

July 24, 2018

Dogs Intentionally Try to Cheer Up Upset Humans, Study Says

While most dog owners have sworn for ages that their canines understand their emotions and try to cheer them up when they're feeling down, a new study is the first to show this phenomenon reproduced in a scientific experiment.

Dogs do lots of strange and amazing things, but it's fascinating how they seem to pick up on non verbal cues and "vibes" better than a lot of humans. 

In the study, researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, took 34 dogs and put them behind closed doors with their owners on the other side, reports The Telegraph.

The doors were closed with magnets, so if the dogs were so inclined they could push the doors open.

While sitting behind the closed door, the dogs' owners were asked to either hum the lullaby "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" or pretend to cry.

Of course the dogs would rather be with their owners than alone in a strange room, so many nosed their way through the door. But the study found that dogs pushed open the door three times more quickly when their owners sounded sad!

"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 help to them," said lead researcher Emily Sanford, who is studying psychological and brain sciences in a graduate program at Johns Hopkins. 

Sanford says dogs have learned over generations to read humans' social cues. What many dog owners have said for ages is now reinforced by science.

But the study went even further. Researchers measured the dogs' stress levels and found those who were "rescuing" their owners showed less stress. The researchers say that means the dogs were upset by the crying but not too upset to take action; they read the situation almost like obeying a command from their owner.

The dogs that registered the most stress didn't push open the door at all. Not because they didn't care, but because they were so upset themselves that they were too troubled to do anything.

It really puts that "What the Fluff Challenge" in a new light, huh?


Photo: Getty Images

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