Dogs have long been known as being man’s best friend and for good reason. Many dog owners have noticed empathy in their pets, especially when they are upset and crying. A scientific study has proved that dogs really do care when their owners are upset and rush to their aid to comfort them.

The recent study was published in the journal “Learning Behavior” after it was proven that dogs will even overcome various obstacles to comfort their owners. The study involved 34 dogs of varying sizes and breeds and successfully showed the empathy our pets have towards us.

Pet dog empathy study

As reported by CNN, the researchers running the study brought in 34 pet dogs and, one at a time, placed their owners behind a glass door which was held shut by magnets for easy opening.

The pets could see their owners through the door as the study was run. Dog owners were asked to say the word “help,” using a distressed tone every 15 seconds and also to appear to cry. Others were requested to hum the song “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

As reported by the Metro, those pets whose owners were seen to be crying tended to open the glass door three times faster than those owners who were merely humming. On average, the dogs whose owners were crying responded within an average of 23.43 seconds while those whose owners were merely humming took quite a bit longer, at an average of 95.89 seconds.

Study successfully showed that our pets love us

The study proved that pet dogs show empathy towards their owners and move fast to go to their comfort and aid. The dogs’ stress levels were measured as the study was run and it was found that those who opened the door to go to their owners’ aid were experiencing less stress than those who didn’t open the door.

Researchers theorize that those latter dogs, while they didn’t manage to open the door to rescue their owners, did care, but too much and were stressed that their owners were upset.

Further studies involving dogs and empathy

CNN reports that the findings from the study could lead to better evaluations of what influences dogs, particularly service dogs, to help their owners and other humans in times of need. Many dogs are used as therapy dogs in hospitals and other environments and now we know why they are so good at their job.

Emily Sanford at Johns Hopkins University was a co-author in the dog empathy study. She said it was great for them to realise just how sensitive canines are to human emotions.