It can be hard to know what is going on in a dog’s mind. However, new research has suggested that dogs may possess emotional intelligence which is similar to that of a two to three-year old human.
The research was a joint enterprise undertaken by Indian animal welfare group People for Animals and London-based group Cruelty Free International. The team reviewed studies which have been conducted involving functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans of dogs. These scans are able to look at the caudate nucleus, a structure deep in the brain which is associated with positive emotions, expectations, enjoyment, social rewards and memory.
It was in 2012 that studies showed for the first time that there are similarities in caudate activity between canines and humans. The new research confirms this. When dogs hear human language, they can recognise the nuances of intonation and can interpret a person’s emotional state and intent.
Dogs also have the cognitive ability to process the sounds they hear and what they see at the same time to reach conclusions. When interacting with a human they will interpret language and facial expressions simultaneously to understand the emotional state of the person.
Our canine friends exhibit moral behaviours during play with other dogs including altruism, tolerance, fairness and forgiveness. Our furry friends appear to have rules of behaviour to ensure that play isn’t mistaken for aggression. Dogs can read people and also other dogs.
The latest research serves to reinforce what most pet owners probably already instinctively know. Dogs are emotional beings with a high level of intuition and intelligence. This being the case, the researchers say that there should be a ban on all scientific testing on dogs. It is now clear that they would find being experimented upon even more distressing than previously thought.
When you find yourself thinking that your dog is in tune with you and knows how you feel, you are probably right. Dogs are picking up on verbal and visual clues and can process this information to reach conclusions about how we feel and what we might do next. Indeed, their ability to read people may be even more impressive than the study in question has suggested.
After all, it is amazing how often an otherwise friendly dog will steer clear of someone or even show aggression towards them and then that person turns out not to like dogs. We might not be able to tell who is an animal lover just by looking at them, but dogs usually can.