Ask any dog owner and they’ll tell you that their pooch knows when they are down and will do what they can to cheer them up. While some folks may think dog parents are just reading into things, science has now proven that it’s actually true.
A study published in the journal, "Learning & Behavior," seems to have proven that not only do dogs recognize when someone is upset and needs help, they're quick to do what they can to help.
And sure, the study was small - looking at just 34 dogs and their humans - but we all know that size doesn't always matter. So what happened? Dogs were separated from their humans in a separate room blocked by a door held closed by magnets. The humans then either cried out a distressed “help” and made crying noises or said “help” in a normal tone and hummed “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”
While dogs on either side of the experiment opened the door to go to their owners about the same, the dogs whose humans were crying did so much faster (an average of 23.43-seconds, as opposed to 95.89 seconds for the humming group).
Also, the study looked at the heart rate of dogs, and dogs whose owners were distressed and were able to open the doors showed lower stress than those who were unable to open the door.
"It's really cool for us to know that dogs are so sensitive to human emotional states," Emily Sanford, a graduate student in psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University who was a co-author of the study, says. "It is interesting to think that all these anecdotes of dogs rescuing humans, they could be grounded in truth, and this study is a step toward understanding how those kinds of mechanisms work.”