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Your dog can tell if you're sad

That ability has never been seen outside of humans.

Image: Shutterstock/Luis Molinero

DOGS HAVE THE ability to combine information from a number of senses to recognise human emotion.

That ability has never been seen outside of humans.

Researchers have now shown that dogs can form abstract mental representations of positive and negative emotional states, and are not simply displaying learned behaviours when responding to the expressions of people and other dogs.

The findings from a team of animal behaviour experts and psychologists the University of Lincoln, UK, and University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, have been published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

The researchers presented 17 domestic dogs with pairings of images and sounds conveying different combinations of positive (happy or playful) and negative (angry or aggressive) emotional expressions in humans and dogs.

The team found the dogs spent significantly longer looking at the facial expressions which matched the emotional state of the vocalisation, for both human and canine subjects.

Dr Kun Guo, from the University of Lincoln’s School of Psychology says that the study shows that dogs can recognise emotions, not just facial expressions.

Our study shows that dogs have the ability to integrate two different sources of sensory information into a coherent perception of emotion in both humans and dogs. To do so requires a system of internal categorisation of emotional states.

“This cognitive ability has until now only been evidenced in primates and the capacity to do this across species only seen in humans.”

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