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Dogs Rush To Help When Owners Cry, Study Suggests

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Anyone who has a dog notices the level of intuition they seem to have. Dogs often know the exact minute you need a little extra love and attention. There's a reason dogs can be trained as emotional support animals and therapy dogs; they seem to be hardwired to be attuned to human emotions. And now, a study has been released that shows that dogs will rush to their owners when they cry. Because, of course they will. Dogs and their humans often have a very strong bond, so if they can tell when you're having a day, it would make sense that they can figure out if you're in distress.

The study, which was published by the journal Learning & Behavior was done with a small test group of dogs, but the results could lead to a deeper dig into the subject matter. Surveying the behavior of 34 dogs and their owners, the study finds that the dogs respond to their owners' cries for help faster if there is actual crying involved. Simply saying the word "help" got a response, but not nearly in the same amount of time.

In the study the owners' cries (mimicking actual crying sounds) accompanying the word help had their dogs answering the cries in less than half a second. On the other hand, simply saying the word help, along with humming the tune Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star had dogs responding in around 90 seconds, which is about a minute and a half. The barrier placed between the dogs and their owners was a glass door that could easily be opened by the dogs with their noses or paws.

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Naturally, the dogs would rush to their owners' sides during times of distress because of the bonds between a pet and it's owner. But this could begin to offer insight on how to train dogs as canine companions and other things in the future. For the study, dogs of various breeds, sizes and ages were used.

Credit: iStock / ulkas

“It’s really cool for us to know that dogs are so sensitive to human emotional states,” say Emily Sanford, co-author of the study and a graduate student in psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University.

Another interesting detail? The dogs immediately rushing to their owner's aid were showing less signs of stress than the dogs who did not open the door to help their owners. The dogs who had owners humming did not have stress indicators linked to opening the door.

“I think this study is important because it helps to show us how dogs might respond in an emergency situation,” says co-author and assistant professor of psychology at Ripon College in Wisconsin, Julia Meyers-Manor.

It will be interesting to see what kind of additional information is learned from this research.

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