Dogs will rush to comfort owners when they sense trouble—study

/ 04:35 PM July 25, 2018

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Dogs were found to be more emotionally attuned to their owners and would rush to comfort them when the animals sense something is wrong.

A study on this behavior, titled “Timmy’s in the well: Empathy and prosocial helping in dogs,” was published in the journal Learning and Behavior. The researchers observed how dogs would react if their owners exhibited signs of distress.


During their experiments, dogs were placed in an enclosure with a clear glass door. The researchers measured how the animals would react after seeing and hearing their owners through the door. The dogs could also go to their master through the magnetized door. The researchers found half of the dogs would approach their respective owners immediately upon seeing them through a clear glass door. However, they also found the dogs would rush to their owners three times faster when they hear crying.

“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 author Emily Sanford, currently a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, in a statement.


Meanwhile, not all the dogs involved in the experiment rushed to their owners. Nonetheless, these dogs still showed higher stress levels when they heard crying from their owners. The researchers suggest the dogs may have been too upset or anxious that they couldn’t figure out what to do in the situation—a behavior that can sometimes be observed in humans as well.

Through this study, scientists were given a more concrete view on the supportive relationship that dogs have with humans. Saford said, “Our findings reinforce that idea, and show that, like Lassie, dogs who know their people are in trouble might spring into action.”  /ra


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TOPICS: “eMPATHY”, animal behavior, dogs, John Hopkins University, Pets
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