Most of those who have had a dog in their lives will readily tell people that their dog knows how they feel. Dog owners believe that their dog knows when they are happy or sad. Most dog owners will tell us that their dog can tell when they are depressed, and their dog tries to lift their spirits.
Researchers have been attempted for many years to understand the ways that dogs are able to understand and relate to human beings so effectively. One study has shown that dogs are better at relating to people than primates are. A recent study conducted in Lincoln, England has demonstrated that dogs understand when humans are expressing anger or happiness in their facial expressions.
The study tested how dogs related to facial expressions in both dogs and humans. Seventeen dogs were shown images of dogs and humans with both happy facial expressions and angry facial expressions. The researchers also coupled auditory cues with the images. For instance, if an angry human facial expression was shown to the dog, the photo would be accompanied by a human speaking in an angry tone of voice.
When the images of happy faces and voices were shown to the dogs, the dogs paid more attention to the images being shown to them. When angry images and voices were provided to the dogs, the dogs turned their attention away. The dogs almost always licked their mouths when the angry faces and voices both canine or human were presented. They did not do this when presented with happy faces and voices. If the dogs were presented with conflicting information, the faces and voices did not correspond to the same emotion, the dogs looked away or appeared uninterested in the experiment.
Researchers believe that these results show that dogs have the ability to understand emotions in facial expressions and through human verbal cues when accompanied by corresponding facial expressions. Scientists through additional experiments believe that dogs use humans emotions to get from humans what they want. Dogs will often adopt a sad facial expression knowing it will bring sympathy from a human.
Researchers plan to do more studies in Lincoln to determine how dogs are able to read human emotions so well. They want to determine how dogs adapted so successfully to living with people.