Your ex just blanked you, your boss just fired you and your neighbour’s cat glared at you as you opened the gate to your own home. Rough day. You open the door and, as if by magic, your dog somehow already knows how you feel, and tries to lick you better.
You sit down on the sofa, hound’s head on your lap, thinking, “You get me better than anyone, don’tcha?”.
Until now, this would sound stupid out loud. However as of yesterday you can bestow as much praise on your pooch as you damn well please, because scientists have confirmed what you always suspected: your dog knows you better than anyone.
The study, published in the journal of Learning & Behaviour, investigated whether dogs have developed specific skills that enable them to pick up on emotional cues contained in a person’s face.
As reported by Science Daily, “Scientists presented photos of the same two adults’ faces (a man and a woman) to 26 feeding dogs… The photos showed a human face expressing one of the six basic human emotions: anger, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise, disgust or being neutral.”
The scientists found that the dogs demonstrated greater cardiac activity (and took longer to resume feeding) when shown photographs that expressed arousing emotional states such as anger, fear and happiness.
“The dogs’ increased heart rate indicated that in these cases they experienced higher levels of stress.”
Also, dogs tended to turn their heads to the left when they saw human faces expressing anger, fear or happiness. “The reverse happened when the faces looked surprised, possibly because dogs view it as a non-threatening, relaxed expression. These findings therefore support the existence of an asymmetrical emotional modulation of dogs’ brains to process basic human emotions,” (Science Daily).