There’s a reason they say dogs are a man’s best friend. You have to admit it’s pretty hard to resist the look he or she gives you with their slobbery tongue sticking out, head innocently tilted to the side, and puppy eyes bulging. It’s like they know what we’re feeling.
But really—they actually might. Researchers just discovered that dogs are now the only animals (other than humans) that can recognize emotions in both humans and other dogs—specifically, they have the ability to tell whether humans are sad, happy, or bursting with anger.
“Previous research has only shown claims that a dogs’ ability to differentiate between human emotions is down to “associate behavior,” – in which they link certain emotional states to facial expressions or other cues that they have learned,” per Medical News Today. But in this study, published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, 17 domestic dogs (that were untrained whatsoever) were shown images of both humans and canines displaying positive (happy or playful) and negative (angry or aggressive) emotion expressions, as well as audio clips of human voices or dogs’ barks that demonstrated a negative or positive tone. (See below; photo from University of Lincoln.)
When the canines were presented with an angry audio clip that matched its negative expression they gazed into the image much longer than normal, signifying that your furry, four-legged friend does, in fact, “have the ability to integrate two different sources of sensory information into a coherent perception of emotion in both humans and dogs,” per coauthor of the study Dr. Kun Guo, from the School of Psychology at Lincoln.
So next time you’re in need of a buddy who really “gets you,” look no further than Fido.