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C Four Paws Blog

New research in dog psychology

May 2016
New research in dog psychology

There is lots of ongoing research into dog psychology and importantly how they relate to us as humans. Reading some of this recently it made me smile how much dogs are still learning at a pace to understand and work with us as humans. I thought this month I would share some of this with you.

It has been understood for some time that dogs are one of the only animals that can read and respond to facial expressions but the range of expressions they can understand apparently now extend far beyond what we originally thought with jealousy, empathy, fear, upset being easily understood. Moreover, dogs can mirror our behaviours and emotions so if we’re having a bad day or are upset our dogs feel this directly as well. So after a hard day shake off the tension and play with your pooch or both you and they might end up feeling the stress.

This understanding of our feelings and behaviours can also extend to dogs understanding and mirroring our feelings towards other people as well. So however hard you try to make it look like you like the in-laws if your dog doesn’t warm to them he could have actually picked up on your feelings and be openly behaving how you are inwardly feeling.

There has been a quote around for some time that say “if my dog doesn’t like you I probably won’t either”. However, there could also be more truth in this than we thought as well. Dogs appear to watch people and make judgements on them. Studies have been carried out with dogs watching people being helpful, unhelpful and doing nothing at all when doing a task with their owners. All categories at the end of being observed by the dogs were offered a treat by the person (helpful, non-helpful and neutral) and the dogs significantly preferred to take treats from the person who was helpful first, followed by the neutral person and bottom of the preference list to take treats from was the unhelpful person in the task. So in fact if your dog does or doesn’t like someone there maybe something there you really should observe in case your dog saw it first!

Your dog will also focus and watch what you focus on. This was believed to be the case when food was involved but yet again studies have shown that your dog is more in tune with you than first thought. Dogs will watch and focus on what you look at and will react also as we said earlier based on emotions you display.
Finally, studies have also now proved what all us dog owners probably already knew which is a dog can see and watch TV!

No wonder then given all the above that our dog is our best friend. In fact they possibly understand us better than anyone and quite literally feel for us on a daily basis.

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