¿Can dogs understand our emotions?

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 It has always been said that dogs identify most of their environment by smell, which is true, but what about the visual in dogs?  Well, the sense of vision in dogs is not the most developed, so we barely have paid attention to it, however they do use it to understand what is happening around them. Normally, domestic dogs share all day with people who speak a very different language, although a lot of genetic information is shared between humans and dogs, that little differential information makes us see ourselves totally different physically and mentally, for which we have to make an effort to understand dogs and they understand us, for humans it is not so complex because we have a greater mental capacity and live longer, which allows us to store more information and better understand many things, dogs have a little more difficult to understand our language, what we want to tell them on a day-to-day basis. It is curious to see how dogs come to understand people so quickly even as puppies, normally dogs pass information from generation to generation and that is why they are already born with acquired instincts, dogs living with the human for more than 35,000 years, make them much more adept at identifying a wide variety of human emotions, much more than other animals that have not had close experiences with humans (Miklósi et al 2004).

Most dog owners will say that they talk to their dogs, that they understand them perfectly, that they are almost one step ahead, but in reality this happens or it is just a human perception and the dog actually does simpler things? It has been shown that dogs that have been stimulated all their lives, this means that they have been trained, or simply have constant contact with their owners, feel important and are stimulated through play, if they identify our emotions through our facial expressions, what has not been proved in depth is that they interpret emotion. What they do understand is that if their owner is happy, they will have more rewards, they will have greater well-being, while when they have an angry face, they think they did something they do not like and they withdraw, in order to see the face again. happiness, beyond this it has not been shown that they can interpret. Few dogs can interpret the face of sadness, only those that see a person constantly sad or are of assistance to depressed people associate these types of expressions with something negative. It should be clarified that dogs look at the facial expression and the tone of voice, those are two things that they interpret and thus they know what state of mind their owner has towards them and how to act (Recca et al 2010).

It could be said that dogs do not know how to understand our emotions, but they do know how to interpret facial expressions that indicate emotions, and associate it with something positive or negative, it is normally a conditioning of the dog towards its owner. Highly trained or assistance dogs know how to read facial expressions of strangers, which is much more complex for a dog, this is always accompanied by the sense of smell and hearing.
The mere fact that they know how to interpret facial expressions and tell them something is highly evolved for their species, it is as if they could speak another language, and this indicates that their social compatibility with humans has been successful.


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  • Miklosi A., Topal J. y Csányi V. 2004. Comparative social cognition: what can dogs teach us ? Animal Behavior, 67,995-1004

  • Recca A.,Amadei E., Ligout S., Guo K., Meints K.y Mills D. 2010. Discrimination of human and dog faces and inversion  responses in domestic dogs (canis familiaris) animal cognition,13,525-533.

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