If you’ve ever had the gut feeling that your pet pooch can understand you, it might not be a gut feeling after all.
Turns out, just as humans can intuitively detect emotions in others, so can dogs.
In the same way that we read faces, dogs can also ‘catch’ cues from people in a process known as emotional contagion, which triggers mirrored responses from observed behaviour.
This copycatting is as simple as it sounds and canines do it by looking into their owners’ faces for clues about how to react to people and the world around them.
And we’re not just talking when a doggy treat is waved front of them with a smile!
A study showed that dogs can distinguish six human faces – anger, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise, and disgust – and adapt their behaviour accordingly.
As well as their remarkable ability to recognise different expressions, pups also connect us with us chemically through the release of oxytocin which is required for human bonding.
Oxytocin, often hailed as the ‘love hormone’, provides the ultimate feel-good factor due to its presence during hugging and relationship-building.
With our furballs able to detect a rainbow of emotions, this makes them far more emotionally intelligent than solitary hunting wolf-like breeds.
Researchers discovered that by analysing levels of stress hormone cortisol, there was notable synchronicity with herding dogs’ concentrations and that of their owner.
This could well explain many of the heart-warming tales we’ve reported on where dogs have showcased extraordinary connections to humans all without sharing a language.
Last month, we brought you the brilliant story of Rob Osman who founded Dudes & Dogs – a mental health walking group for men and their pets – after he credited his dog with saving him.
While back in June, Digby the Labradoodle saved a stranger from taking their own life by enticing them back to safety from the bridge.