Dogs Can Feel Empathy, Says Scientific Study

Ever look into your dog’s eyes and wonder how he or she knows exactly how you’re feeling? Although I’d like to think that pups have have the same emotional intelligence as humans, let’s be honest, they don’t.  But they are clued into their owners’ emotions, as reported by The Bark.




In a 2018 paper called Timmy’s in the well: Empathy and prosocial helping in dogs, published in the journal Learning & Behavior, researchers showed that dogs with strong bonds to their owners hurried to push through a door when they heard their person crying.  “We found dogs not only do dogs sense what their owners are feeling, but also that if a dog knows a way to help their owner, they’ll go through barriers to provide to help them,” said lead author Emily Sanford, a graduate student in psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University.


“Every dog owner has a story about coming home from a long day, sitting down for a cry and the dog’s right there, licking their face. In a way, this is the science behind that.”


Unsurprisingly, the paper was named after the film (and the dog) Lassie, an iconic movie and dog known for his extreme loyalty. Now, you can add empathy to the list of awesome puppy characteristics, too.


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Rachel Zoldan

Rachel Jacoby Zoldan is a freelance writer and editor living in New York City with her husband two cats, Gerry and Cookie. (Who are, yes, named after a film about dogs.)

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