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Your Dog Really Does Understand Your Emotions


Do you ever get the sense that your dog knows exactly what you’re feeling? Well, you’re right!

Dogs do understand the emotions behind an expression by humans, according to new research. The new study shows dogs understand what’s written on your face. How? Dogs use different areas of their brains to process human emotions, just like the one you are feeling at that moment.

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Study Reveals Exactly How In-Tune Your Dog is with How You’re Feeling

A research team from the University of Bari Aldo in Italy reveals how connected dogs are with people. If there is a surprised look on a human emotional face, dogs will likely turn their head to the right. When a dog turns its head to the left, the dog may find a person happy, fearful or angry. When a dog sees someone who is having a bad day, the heart rate of a dog will go up.

This research, first published in the journal Learning & Behavior, is the latest evidence that dogs use different parts of their brains to process human emotions. How is this possible? For one, dogs have developed skills to interact and communicate with humans since they live closely to people in their homes. The dog’s brain is able to detect emotional cues from someone’s face, voice, posture and even body scent.

How Your Dog Uses Different Parts of the Brain to Process Your Emotions

The study was based on presenting pictures of the same two adult male and female faces to 26 dogs and watching what the dogs did and how they reacted. The photographs were of a human face expressing emotions of happiness, fear, disgust, surprise, anger and a neutral expression. When the dogs were shown photos of the humans expressing happiness, fear and anger, the dogs showed higher cardiac activity and greater response. Their increased heart rate meant they were experiencing increased stress levels.  As a result, dogs also more often turned their heads to the left.

The opposite took place when the human faces looked more relaxed, then dogs would turn their heads to the right. This evidence gleaned from the research team boosts their theory that there is a strong connection between a dog’s brain and processing basic human emotions.

The right side of the brain plays a critical role in regulating the “sympathetic outflow” to the heart. The brain-to-heart is an important part of the dog’s body to control fight or flight responses needed for survival in the world.  Negative emotions on human faces seem to be processed by the left part of the brain, whereas positive emotions seem to be processed by the right hemisphere of the brain. Dogs use different parts of their brains to process human emotions, concludes the study’s authors.


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