Dogs’ human-like social skills make them man’s best friend

Saturday, 19 February 2011 - 3:00pm IST | Place: London | Agency: ANI
Researchers at the University of Porto, in Portugal, explained that dogs have a quality called ‘emotional contagion,’ which allows them to respond even beyond the ability to react to people’s emotions.

A new study has found out that dogs possess certain human-like social skills that even chimpanzees, our closest relatives, do not, and maybe that’s why they are termed man’s best friend.

Researchers at the University of Porto, in Portugal, explained that dogs have a quality called ‘emotional contagion,’ which allows them to respond even beyond the ability to react to people’s emotions.

“A study showing that dogs behave as “upset” as children when exposed to familiar people faking distress strongly suggests sympathetic concern,” the Daily Mail quoted Dr Karine Silva as saying.

“Also, it has been reported that untrained dogs may be sensitive to human emergencies and may act appropriately to summon help, which, if true, suggests empathic perspective taking.”

There may be three reasons behind this ability, the researchers said.

Dogs originated from wolves, which have developed empathy towards other species. Because dogs were domesticated, their empathy towards man has been fine-tuned over generations. And breed selection for increasingly difficult tasks, such as herding and helping with disabilities, has led to more complex understanding of human emotion.

The study appears in Royal Society journal Biology Letters.




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