Science supports the theory that dogs have an exceptional ability to sense our emotions and they tend to know us even better than the way we know ourselves. When our stress level is increasing, the dogs can detect with their slightest hypertension alerts. They can also impact our emotions just by staring into our eyes and a quick glimpse of the way we express ourselves, will let them know if we are happy or sad. But the question is how do they take notice of our personal feeling and how does this experience affect the special bond we share with them?
The friendship between dogs and humans started 15,000 years ago and it continues to increase to this day. This all started by human providing warmth, shelter, and food to the dog in exchange for protection and companionship. Besides, humans do employ in prolonged eye contact especially with their loved ones and this also has made the dog look into our eyes. When it comes to the dog family, this is so different because, they do not always stare into each other’s eyes during bonding and in fact, this behavior is naturally seen as a threat among dogs. By looking into our eyes dogs have stolen the famous oxytocin-gaze positive loop that is often seen between new mothers and their infants. As humans and dogs continue to grow in and out, our clever, resourceful dogs also persistently adjust to our way of life. They are so good at grasping our personal feelings and it sometimes feels like they can read our minds. There are several ways by which dogs can sense our emotions and this can be through:
Reading our gestures
93% of human communication is non-verbal and both humans and dogs communicate through the use of body posture, gestures, eye movements, and touch. When greeting a pack of dogs in a park, dogs avoid being harsh and are adventurous puppies in favor of happy and relaxed friends. This is similar when it comes to sensing our emotions because, a quick glimpse at our posture, movements, and behavior tells them everything about our current attitude. The skill of reading our gestures is so evolutionary that a study of nine-weeks old puppies that have never lived at homes scored better. This showed that dogs are good at reading our body language and they defeat wolves, chimps and even three-year-old children playing in social cognition.
Studying our facial expressions
Humans and primates have a social characteristic known as “emotional contagion” and that is why when we yawn, a friend yawns and we also tend to smile back to a stranger. This is also expressed among dogs because when a parent dog yawns, the dog will probably do the same. Having equal emotions and physical expressions for our friends shows our high aptitude for empathy. An Italian researcher and her team studied the behavior of dogs at the park and found out that dogs imitate each other like, having the same body gestures, they also copy facial expression when they get to recognize each other. The authors believe that emotional contagion exists between dogs and humans. This is because when they meet, dogs tend to raise their eyebrows and it signifies that they are engaged in the same cooperation. Also, when we reflect on our looks, there is strong evidence that dogs recognize and understand the different body gestures in humans such as happiness and sadness.
Anticipating the emotions in our voice
Dogs have very powerful ears which are very useful in detecting our emotions. This makes it possible for them to distinguish high frequencies and sounds more than four times farther away than humans. Recent studies have shown that they respond the same way as humans when cries of infants are revealed near them. They are observed to be very angry and this makes them release the hormone cortisol, concluding that crying is a negative human sound to them. Another study carried out in 2014, has shown that dogs understand the emotional voice signals thus demonstrating empathy by the sense of variations in tone and attitude in the voices of fellow dogs and humans.
Smelling out chemical changes in our body
Dogs have 300 million olfactory receptors while humans have only 6 million worthless receptors. Because of this large number of olfactory receptors, they tend to be 10,000 to 100,000 times more sensitive than humans. Scientists have compared their smelling ability to “catching a whiff of one rotten apple amid two million barrels.” Dogs are known to smell sophisticated chemical changes within the human body and it clearly shows a range of medical conditions. But can they smell our emotions? A study was conducted by the researchers at the University of Naples to see if dogs could smell the difference between human body odors produced during happiness and terror. During the research, a video was shown to the volunteer “odor donors” so that it could influence the production of sweat either in happiness or in fear. After the test, the sweat production was collected in pads and the dogs’ subjects were then exposed to the pads as samples of “happy sweat” and “fearful sweat.” In the presence of the fearful odors, the dog’s heartbeat went high and they looked for comfort to their owners. This led to the conclusion that dogs do not only smell our emotional conditions but they also tend to take the emotions as their own.
Using the “It” factor
There are still some unbelievable ways dogs sense our emotions that we as humans do not fully understand. The most astonishing example in our dogs is their ability to detect dangerous people or those with bad intentions. Until 2019, scientists could not explain how dogs could identify the breakdown in humans and could not mention exactly what the dogs see, smell, hear or feel to tip them off. They are not so sure about this ability but what is known is that they are said to be excellent judges of character. This could be a simple instinct or maybe because of their incredible noses they can gather on nervous energy emanating from these offensive behaviors. Dogs are also able to smell changes and sense bad intentions from people especially when a person behaves harshly. When this is the case even dogs cannot save us from a lunatic since they experience fewer emotions and their brain functioning is unlikely to alert our dogs to their brutal intentions.