Time reports on July 23, 2018, that there is new proof that your dog really loves you. That's a layperson's way of describing the results of psychological research conducted in Minnesota on owners and their pet pups. It is a commonly accepted that most dog owners would do quite a bit, including paying thousands for veterinarians, to come to the aid of their pups in times of need.

The new study suggests that pups may do the same for their owners (though in a different way) by actually interpreting their owners' feelings in distressed situations and coming to their aid. In a world where some research suggests people may actually be dying of loneliness, it is nice to know that one can have a good and loyal friend in a pet dog.

According to Time, there has already been much research proving that Dogs respond to human behavior, such as crying, but the new study, published in the journal "Learning and Behavior," shows that dogs will, in fact, take affirmative action in response to human crying, as if their intent is to soothe or otherwise help the owner in need. This suggests that dogs feel empathy for humans, and act accordingly.

Dogs respond more quickly to owners in distress

The study separated owners from their dogs with a door. The owners behind the door then either cried or hummed. The intention of this research was, in part, to see if dogs responded differently to crying than to humming owners. And indeed they did!

Dogs that showed the most intense and measurable connection with their owners opened the doors to get back to their owners, but dogs opened the doors much faster for owners making sounds of distress than for owners who were humming.

The strength of the dog-owner connection was measured by the length of time dogs gazed at their owners.

(Dogs with minimal owner connection may not have opened the door at all.) But dogs with strong owner connection who opened the door did so about one minute faster for owners who were crying than for owners who were humming.

Even some of the dogs in the study who did not open the door for crying owners showed signs of distress themselves, pacing and whining.

Smithsonian suggests this means the most helpful dogs are like the most helpful persons in distressful situations; they must maintain calm and composure in a stressful situation in order to take action.

Other non-human animals show empathy

Smithsonian reports that dogs are not alone among animals that show the capacity for empathy and compassion. For example, studies show that chimpanzees will soothe and console the victims of bullying. Prairie voles try to cheer up their partners when they're feeling down in the dumps.

Even rats will make efforts to free fellow rats from plastic containers. These animals may not be consoling human beings, but they are showing empathy for one another, which is no small thing.

There is much about animal behavior which can appear almost human.

For example, orangutans have been taught to communicate in sign language with humans and with one another. When it comes to dogs, there seems to be a special cross-species empathetic connection between pups and their human owners, one which probably merits further psychological study of the motivations of humanity's best friend.

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