Many people feel a strong emotional connection to their beloved canine pets and plenty of us can’t wait to immediately curl up with our dogs after a rough day. Now, a new study has provided further proof of what many dog lovers have suspected all along — dogs understand humans on an emotional level.
“Theory of the Mind,” the ability to understand someone else’s perspective, isn’t unique to humans. A study published in the journal Animal Cognition provides compelling evidence that our canine friends also possess this skill and they can read our thoughts better than we may think.
In the study, dogs watched humans hide food in containers while a second human looked away. Seventy percent of the time, dogs successfully determined which humans had seen the food being hidden — and they used this information to their advantage in order to get the treats. (Well-played.)
This isn’t the first study that’s shown that dogs possess way more emotional intelligence than they’re given credit for. Research published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science showed that dogs possess "emotional contagion” (better known as empathy) and they adjust their behavior based on the behaviors exhibited by their owners. They sense emotions such as anger and sadness, and respond accordingly.
Dogs can also sense when humans are being rude to one another — so mind your manners when your dog is watching, lest he or she judges you for being a jerk. (Oh, and also because we should be as kind as possible.)
Of course, canines’ emotional intelligence doesn’t always work towards our advantage — a study published in March showed that our dogs are not above using deceptive tactics to get what they want (aka more treats) from their owners.
But being duped into doling out a few extra treats is a small price to pay for the unconditional love and empathy provided by our beloved dogs.