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Do dogs empathize with human beings?

Probably one of the most frustrating things as a dog owner is to be able to look so deeply into the eyes of your canine, feel a connection and still not know what they are feeling. We all love our pets and want to feel as close to them as we can.

Don’t we all want to know what our dog is thinking? And how they are feeling about us at any given moment? There are so many questions that are enlightened in our brain as we look at our dog. However, it is heartbreaking to see that they cannot communicate with us. The best we can do is assume things based on their body language.

However, a group of experts has come together to answer the most commonly asked questions about canines. While you can never be 100% sure about anything, experiments and studies have given an insight into dogs and their sentiments.

Here are the answers to some commonly asked queries about canines.

Q: Can dogs laugh or smile?

Yes, one of the most highly wondered questions is if dogs can smile or laugh? Let’s talk about smiling first. Often, we may have noticed that our canine gives an expression that looks similar to a smirk. We may have even seen photos and videos on the internet of dogs showing such facial expressions. Truth is, dogs do have an expression of happiness. The more you spend time with your dog, the better you will be able to understand this expression. Generally, dogs that have a broad faces, look like they are always grinning.

Now, coming to ‘laughing’. Sometimes, when dogs are panting, it can sound like they are laughing, and this is because they are! Isn’t that great to know? In an experiment, this laughing was analyzed with a sonograph, then the frequencies were mapped. They were then played to other dogs, and this showed a decrease in stress and the dogs felt more playful.

Q: Do dogs feel empathy for humans?

There is no dog expert that will tell you that dogs do not feel empathy. They do, dogs can sense when you are sad. You may have even noticed that your canine sits down next to you when it feels upset and recognizes your sentiments when you feel this way. So, yes, dogs do empathize with humans.

One simple way to measure empathy is through yawning. ‘Contagious yawning’ is linked to empathy in adults. In a study that was conducted, around 70% of dogs yawned when they saw someone else yawn. Hence, if you see your dog yawn when you do, the answer is pretty clear. Also, dogs can mimic the behavior of humans. Hence, if you ever feel down, your dog will start to feel and act similar to you. This is their way to get closer to you and win you over.

Q: Why do dogs tend to get aggressive?

Another great question is this one. Dogs are not always aggressive, but when they are, there is always a reason behind it. Whenever your dog feels like it is under some sort of threat or at risk of being harmed, it will either freeze, fawn, run or stand back and fight.

When dogs get aggressive, it means that somewhere deep inside, they are scared. This is one of the reasons that they bite people. To prevent yourself from getting bitten, you need to pay close attention to their body language.

At times, humans misinterpret what their dog is trying to say. If it is panting, then it may be hot or stressed. A dog with a ‘whale eye’ might be looking for something or anxious. But, in scenarios like this, you need to take into consideration the overall context. If your dog has its tail down, is panting, and also has a whale eye, then you need to keep your distance. When your dog is in such moods, you need to get away from them and not try to touch or pet them as it can result in you getting bitten.

Some dogs also are not fond of strangers. Hence, meeting a stranger or someone that they haven’t met before can cause them to be fearful. A lot of times, a dog’s aggression can easily be explained if you have an understanding of the dog’s behavior, body language, and history.

Q: Do dogs have an understanding of time?

If you have a habit of feeding your dog at the same time on a daily basis, their digestive system adjusts to expect being fed at that time. And sometimes, it can be spot on! However, in terms of separation anxiety, it is possible that your dog knows how long you have been gone.

The best explanation for this is that you leave your scent wherever you go. This scent stays in the air and with the passage of time, it decreases. This is why, as it begins to recede, your dog may get the impression that you have left it alone and end up being anxious. Do not underestimate a dog’s ability to smell. While you can smell a spoon of sugar in tea, dogs can smell it in an entire swimming pool!

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