A study published this week in the journal Animal Cognition explores dogs’ responses to “distressed” humans, and confirms what many of us know: dogs are comforting creatures.
Even when presented with a stranger pretending to cry, dogs sniffed, nuzzled and licked the stranger. While it’s not clear if the dogs “empathy-like” responses are evidence of an innate trait or conditioning (having been rewarded for that behavior in the past), researchers Deborah Custace and Jennifer Mayer posit that it may be a combination.
Humans may have selected more empathetic dogs for breeding over several millenia.
“Dogs and humans have shared a symbiotic bond for at least 15,000 years,” the authors note. “Over that period dogs have been subject to intense selective breeding that has not only produced breeds with markedly different body shapes and sizes but also differing behavioral dispositions.”
Those who have worked with service and comfort dogs can attest to the patience and empathy dogs can show. Check out 12 amazing comfort dogs in action, below!
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