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Have you ever noticed when you're sad that your dog seems to comfort you? I'd noticed this myself since I was a kid, but I saw a remarkable documentary from Nova called Dogs Decoded (available for streaming on Netflix, http://bit.ly/pgmIs8), that shows some of the research scientists are conducting to try and uncover the facts here. Among other things, they suggest that dogs can read human emotions, that humans can understand different types of dog barks, and that specific types of dog barking may have actually evolved in order to communicate better with human beings.

One thing I found fascinating is that dogs seem to "read" a human face the way we do. As humans, we tend to look at the left side of a human face first. Dogs don't do this with other dogs or animals, but they do it with people. The thinking is that since a human face is non-symmetrical and that we tend to display our emotions more on the left side of the face than the right (http://bit.ly/n81YbW). (This research on the split sides of the human face and micro-emotions is fascinating on its own -- here's a brief summary of micro-expression research: http://bit.ly/pyQ6M5.) Anyway, there's a lot more in the Nova documentary (http://bit.ly/pgmIs8) I won't spoil it.

I also just read this article "Do Animals Smile?" (http://yhoo.it/pOgNUm) which suggests that a dog's "submissive" facial gesture act much like a smile and it functions to disarm aggression. I think everybody needs a Dog smile on a Friday, and if you're in another timezone, you probably could use some Dog love too... :-)
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156 comments
 
Hmmm..... Dogs are aliens? Just like the mice in "a hitchhikers guide to the galaxy".
 
+Tom Anderson There is no doubt of these things, as I watch my husband and my dog talk to each other in barks and howls. She knows what to "say" to get his attention, and he knows what to "say" back...

{WAS I ACTUALLY "FIRST" ON A TOM ANDERSON POST???!!!!}
 
Yeah, great documentary. My wife and I enjoyed it.
 
Awesome insight into the our relationship with man's best friend... I always knew my dog could tell when I was upset, now I gave confirmation! 
 
What I'm waiting for is the psychological studies on people who treat dogs better than their fellow humans.
 
My dogs always try and comfort. It's why the term "mans best friend" came about.
 
Now I'm really, really interested in this documentary. Maybe, I'll give it a watch tonight.
 
I have seen it. it's a great documentary.
 
I saw this on a few weeks ago, it was really interesting!
 
I appreciate every moment I can spend with my dog. I know the different dog barks and body expressions, just as she learned to read our moods, face expression and some of our human language. It is great to share your live with another animal like that and it breaks my heart when I see how some people treat dogs and other animals.
 
Very cool! Yes, I experience this quite a bit just recently. I'm going through a bit of a bout of diverticulosis the past few months (I'm now an expert, feel free to reach out) that doubles me over in pain sometimes. My year old Cairn terrier, a wonderful companion but not overly lovable, is there every time licking my face, whining, comforting me. Its incredible, amazing, and it helps me greatly.
 
they are very sensitive animals. When my best friend was pregnant (and the baby was diagnosed to have a congenital disorder), her dog would lay her head on my best friends tummy and give a start everytime the baby kicks. it was remarkable to witness something like that.
 
That was a great documentary! It put science behind something that dog owners already knew, dogs are incredibly smart and loyal!
 
I got my first dog ever about 6 months ago. Never really was a pet person but I caved into the wife & kids and can finally understand peoples attachments to their pets, especially dogs.

Funny I've been watching some other dog documentaries on Netflix, but it was more about all the different breads and their origins, will look for this one.
 
Nice! interesting information, I will have to take a look at this video! =) thanks for sharing.
 
<3 this. thanks for sharing. without doubt i *know my pets understand me on a basic emotional level, just as i learn to understand them. it's cool reading about all the reasons why though. ive also heard that barking and meowing is something only done by dogs and cats that are domesticated - developed specifically to communicate with us. HOW RAD!!
 
This would explain why the dog wants to be as close as possible to me when I watch hockey on TV.
 
Dogs Can sense you. My previous Lab would go to the front door & want for me up to 20 mins Before I got home apparently & I Never was home on the same Hour let alone min. Explain that.
 
+Tom Anderson Thank you so much for sharing this documentary. I'm currently writing my thesis on the benefits of pet therapy with older adults as a holistic means to treat depression and there is a TON of research out there to support its effectiveness. I will definitely have to check it out. Also, the TV series "Lie to Me" is fantastic in applying these facial expressions toward humans. I'm so happy there is more research discussing the validity of micro-expressions as it can be applied to any profession involving face-to-face contact with clients, patients, colleagues, etc.
 
Our beagle has different barks (including an intruder bark) and he always sits at my feet or crawls on my lap when I am not feeling well. 
 
Communication amongst dogs is almost entirelly about body language. I suspect that dogs read our body language with equal aptitude. :)
 
Our cat is especially nurturing when I or my wife are sick. He never leaves our sides when we aren't feeling well.
 
I don't have a dog but have noticed this behavior with my daughter's dog. I've also noticed that my cats seem to stick closer to me when I'm sick- wonder if that's the same type of connection.
 
Thank you for the Micro expression info !!
 
I saw that too, I found it interesting how they observe the whites of our eyes as well.
 
Thanks for the heads up. I got my first dog at the age of 63. I admit that I fell in love with him and now all dogs. As a puppy he was as loving and as much of a sweet exasperating responsibility as a toddler. At 7 he is just as loving and now only a sweet responsibility. I'll definitely look for the documentaries!
 
"As humans, we tend to look at the left side of a human face first. Dogs don't do this with other dogs or animals, but they do it with people. "

Dogs tend to "sniff" each other's back side first. ;-)
 
Dogs Decoded was such an AMAZING show. Wow. I learned so much. And I valued the gift I had in my loyal schnauzer even more than I did already. I heart doggies.
 
Hmm, smile as a gesture to disarm aggression.. Interesting thought..
 
lol Tom, that was great. I've always noticed that about my dogs. Whenever I was sick or in a bad mood my pup would always come over and curl up next to me and give me a big kiss across the face and lay there with me. They always could tell.

Watching that video makes me miss my dogs so much. I think everybody needs a good dog in their life, there's nothing like coming home to an awesome dog to put a big smile on your face.
 
If you want a loyal dog, u don't abuse it for sure
 
my dogs and my cats comfort me when I'm upset! :)
 
I genuinely wonder if dogs really do feel emotions for us, or if they are merely just evolved responses so that we will take care of them and feed them.

In other words, do my dogs love me as much as I love them, or are they just "playing" me?
 
I saw this on Netflix earlier this year. Very good documentary, may watch it again lol.
 
I saw something similar, and they did experiments on wolves and dogs and discovered that dogs consistently are able to interpret visual cues from humans and something else really awesome. The dogs and wolves were raised separately, but both groups were treated, nurtured, and trained as if they were dogs. They had a cage with a strip of fabric sticking out with a piece of meat on it. The meat was inside the cage. Both the dog and the wolf figured out how to pull the fabric to get the meat. In a second test, the strip of fabric was nailed down so that tugging on it wouldn't work to get the meat. The wolves would keep tugging, and trying to dig under the cage, and going to other sides. The dogs, however, would try a couple different things but fairly quickly they would stop trying, sit down, and look at the human --as if asking for help, or waiting for instructions. The wolves never did that. So we've apparently bread into dogs the ability to try to consult with us on problem solving. Dogs have also been bread to understand and implement deception. They understand that if they steal something, and they cover it up, we won't see it.
 
I've had my little mixed terrier for 13 years and I always understand what she wants and shes not just a pet shes family :)
 
My brother got me to watch this. I loved it! I have a 4 year old Golden Retriever named Eddie (for Eddie Vedder). It's also the white in their eyes that are similar to ours. Eddie reads me like a book.
 
BBC ran a great documentary a couple of years ago that seem to have covered the same thing. The long time symbiotic relationship between man and dog is fascinating. Apparently, without dogs we could never have moved beyond hunter-gatherers. Thank doggie for civilization as we know it today!
 
Love you page it is really cute
 
Love this... thanks for sharing. Lets call it Fido Friday! :)
 
Yes I remember that documentary Also scientists proved that dogs laugh!
 
the best thing i ever did was add +Tom Anderson to my circles. You always post the most interesting things. Thanks!
 
I almost laugh my face off. really love this.
 
I watched that some time ago, and it was brilliant. I really enjoyed watching it.
 
Yes, they do try to console you. I love dogs!

I think cats do this, too. As a kid, I had a cat named George. George and I had a love/hate relationship. He was not the kind of cat that would cuddle, but, I remember at least two occasions where I was crying and he suddenly came to my lap and was very friendly, and even let me rub his stomach, which normally was a BIG no-no for him.
 
my dogs can not only read me like a book, they try to manipulate as well! they are pros at the subtle begging and very successful with it
 
animals and babies have no capacity to lie, only your perception to them lies to you
 
I love everything about this post. Thanks for sharing!
 
"What's that Lassie? Timmy's trapped in a well?!".

I guess that wasn't such a stretch after all!
 
Tom,

Come here, ill tour you in the whole Austin and we can talk about all great topics you want...

Dude, keep up in sharing important stuff to the world of Gplus...

Thanks & God bless...
 
When I was really down my puppy just laid right by me for hours on end, even though it was morning and she was in her cage all night. She just let me stroke her and fell asleep right by me, watching the door to make sure no one came in to bother me.

Now that I remember that, I really miss her and wish I didn't have to give her away. I want a puppy again!
 
+Tom Anderson Being a dog trainer by trade for many years none of this surprises me.. My last dog was totally protection trained, as all my dogs were over the years. Protection dogs were my specialty. I could look at him with eye contact then look at you and point and he would go off on you.. If I showed anger or even seemed like I was frustrated at someone he didn't know, he would be keyed in on that person and ready for me to give him his command. I could sense him as well as he could sense me.. I started training dogs when I was twelve years old.

Officers on the street have this bond. Miltary dogs and handlers in the bush in Vietnam came back with all kinds of story's on how well there dogs did, sensing and feeling danger between the handler and dog..

There is a reason they say a dog is mans best friend.. Certain breeds are a lot more receptive to body language and emotion then other's.. Cattle dogs and the herding breeds being the ones that are the most receptive in these area's.. They have been bred to do a job of taking direction from the handler from a distance. Because of this they are always watching and reading there handlers wants and needs.. It's been bred into them..

My first dog I got as a kid of twelve years old, she was an Aussie Queensland Healer mix. When your a kid, your nothing but emotion! I learned to use this, to show my dog what I wanted..

I got into vocabulary and hand signals and went out of my way to see how many words and or hand signals I could teach her.. She had a vocabulary of over 200 commands and hand signals by the time I finished with her.

I called her my circus dog. Taught her every trick I could think of.. Roll over, crawl, limp like she was hurt. To shake, like she was shaking water off her back.. All with hand signals. I could drop her into a down from a football field in length, sit from a down. stand from a down. All from hand signals from way down field. She would walk walls, climb trees and many other little things I came up with to teach her.. To go to sleep, (cover her eyes with her paws,) when I gave her the command to go to sleep.. She would amaze even me at times.. She was so in tune with me, it wasn't even funny. All because I was an emotional trainer that used these emotions to pass onto the animal what I wanted..

Cesar Millan is a good friend of mine. I lived at his place for a year or so. Way before he was what I call Mr. Hollywood. ;-)

Cesar calls it energy, I think of it as emotions and drives... To teach an excitable hyper dog to settle down. I will do what I call a 1000 and 1 to 0.. Get all squirrely, cause the dog to go ape. Then correct the dog with a mild correction and drop your emotions to "0" walk real slow and take your whole being to a zero state.. The dog picks up on this and can then understand what your asking of it.. If he doesn't understand one state, how do you expect him to understand the other? You show him both and ask that he gives you "0".. If he has one state, he can now relate to the other and he learns and actually understands what your asking of him. he is not just going through the motions but actualy understands what your asking. This is a good example of using emotions in training..

What I call the gut feeling of dog training. Meaning to be in tune with your dog and feel it in your gut, in how to communicate with your animal.

Liked this post from you my friend.. Many of your post are very incite-full.

Yours through the screen..

Mark Ferrasci
 
I liked the supposition that dogs may have been domesticated in as little as one human lifetime.
 
Research regarding communication between us and dogs shows that our eye cues communicate much to them. A study with dogs and chimps had 2 doors, and behind one door was the prize/food. Human points to door #2 (where the prize is) and the chimp goes for door #2. Same for the dog. Other times, Human points to door #1, chimp goes to door number 2. dog goes to door #1. In the end, the chimp would already make a decision as to which door it would open to look for the prize, regardless of what gestures the human did. With the dogs, the human didn't need to point anymore. Just a quick glance at the correct door and the dog knew where to go.
 
i have absolutely no doubt dogs can read human emotions. they are entirely emotional beings themselves, and in my experience, particularly sensitive to the emotions of their people. when i am sick, my little tazmanian devil is not quite so spazzy, when i am happy, she is a ball of play energy, when i am angry or scared, she is my guardian. i cannot imagine what man did before he had a best friend.
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totally true tom! because my little schnauzer named tigger will immedially stop whatever he is doing if he hears me crying and nuzzle my face and cuddle me until I stop crying. even if there is a steak in front of him in the kitchen- if he hears darby crying or in distress, he will run to me no matter what. great post tom! thanks! woof woof
 
Every so often I think to myself "Wow my dog's pretty smart" and then she'll do something like wrap the leash around a tree 5 times and can't get free.
 
The show you mentioned was an awesome one. Raved about it earlier this year when I saw it.
 
Dogs truly are smart animals. My dog, Sasha, is always in tune with my emotions, just as you described. If I am sitting there sad, crying about something, she sits in front of me, and stares back at me with her big puppy eyes and her ears set low, as if she is feeling my same pain. Also, when there is an argument in the house, she senses the tension and runs to hide under the bed or a chair....she never ceases to amaze me! I don't know what I would do without her- she is my best friend....thanks for posting these articles and telling us about the Nova documentary. We'll check it out!
 
Krystle,

I supposed to share my story but you beat me there...

Its the same, she will run at the back of the couch and hide even were kinda in the feeling to start the argument, I was like how she knows it..
Then if im so sad or feel kinda not feeling well, she will sit on me and will stay as long im there...

Its truly mans best friend...


 
They say... you can't just dislike cats. But in my own way, I think dogs are more active, barking and playing all the time. And that's what we all need, after a day that went wrong. Or when you don't have anyone to count on. The joy and energy showing you that you still alive, you're important some how, at least for them =)
 
i like to watch Nova too! :)
 
I have 4 dogs and they make me laugh all day, every day
 
That baby just got raped by a dog!
Jade M
 
so. many. links.
 
I know that dogs can read emotions but i find it more startling that cats can as well. Dogs are social animals and it is in their interest to be able to judge their social group, be they human or other. Cats are loners and generally dont try to please their human. They still are able to read and react to emotions and my cat will snuggle up and try to purr me better if i am ill or upset.
Would love to see that documentary. Is it available to non US people?
 
I remember some mixed feelings when I was a kid - my cat would mangle some bird and I'd be sad about it, then my cat would come comfort me.
 
+Tom Anderson A great companion book for this show would be the #1 New York Times Best Seller "Inside of a Dog What dogs See, Smell, and Know" by Alexandra Horowitz. I had just mentioned this book to someone else posting about their dog the other day. One of the best books I've read to get an insight of our 4-legged friends and how they perceive their/our world.
 
Of course dogs can read human emotion. They don't speak the language, therefore they have to communicate on an emotional level instead of an intellectual one.
Mine communicates with me all the time.
 
yin and yang philosophy teaches that the yin (female, passive, biological mother) is indicated on the left side of the body and the yang (male, active, biological father) on the right. i wonder if we look to the left side of a face first because we naturally look to our mother first as a child?. also, i agree, a passive reaction on the left side (or knee-jerk emotinal state) is easier to determine for truthfulness than the active right side of the face, which has more capacity for expression, and hence, concealment. thanks for the great articles +Tom Anderson !
 
Love my puppies. They listen to me without complaint. They know just when to curl up on my lap. They never stop being overjoyed when I wake up, walk in the door, feed them, throw a ball, almost any little thing brings them happiness. Nature, nuture, evolution, adaptation, whatever caused it, I am a grateful recipient of the results.
 
I wonder if domestic cats have evolved in any ways to make them more compatible with humans yet...
 
i just watched the documentary and found most of it fascinating and well done. however, the part about the domesticating study using the foxes in siberia was straight up animal cruelty. the amount of animals being held captive in the conditions they were in was appalling. the woman who ran the whole thing was disgusting, calling the aggressive foxes (that she bred to be this way no less) "dragons!". WTF kind of BS is that?

thankfully though, the majority of the documentary portrayed dogs as the beautiful, sensitive and intelligent animals they really are...
 
Tom may I suggest that you read a book called "When Elephants Weep, The emotional lives of animals" By Jeffrey Masson? Mr Masson was very thorough and reading it is a shocking revelation.. I promise you that is true.
 
I actually heard it was hormones, but that was slightly more than a few years ago. I was told that, though undetectable to the human senses, very slight changes in hormones occur with the changing of emotions, and dogs that have been around the same humans for some time can pick up on those changes. This is interesting though, both on its own and because I've also been told that dogs couldn't see very well, and that their nose compensated.
 
My dog doesn't get it. She has no clue when I'm feeling down or ill or whatever. But she makes up for it in her other quirks.
 
I really love dogs! They are amazing! I have two Jack Russell Terriers and they are both very intelligent :)
Ryan L
 
I saw that on Netflix too, pretty interesting. There is another one on there called the science of dogs (Nat Geo); it's pretty interesting too.
Brit B.
 
I saw that. Great special!
 
Just got back from a 6 day business trip and my dog was waiting at the door. He was excited to see me, and he woke me up this morning to go play fetch. My wife is jealous of our relationship.
 
Of course they can. There have been dogs that saved their masters from death by sensing problems, even cancer. They truly are our best friends. ;)



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Really enjoyed that documentary! I've always believed that dogs are capable of empathizing with humans. In recent years I've learned that cats are capable of this too. Did you know that most cats do not meow to each other? They only meow to humans. The many centuries of coexisting with humans has probably left these two species more bonded with us than with their fellow animals. 
 
"The Indian elephant is said sometimes to weep."
--Charles Darwin

"Animals cry. At least, they vocalize pain or distress, and in many cases seem to call for help. Most people believe, therefore, that animals can be unhappy and also that they have such primal feelings as happiness, anger, and fear. The ordinary layperson readily believes that his dog, her cat, their parrot or horse, feels. They not only believe it but have constant evidence of it before their eyes. All of us have extraordinary stories of animals we know well. But there is a tremendous gap between the commonsense viewpoint and that of official science on this subject. By dint of rigorous training and great efforts of the mind, most modern scientists--especially those who study the behavior of animals--have succeeded in becoming almost blind to these matters.

What fascinated me about animals was the ready access they seemed to have to their emotions. No animal, it seemed to me, needed to dream to feel. They demonstrated their feelings constantly. Annoy them, they have no hesitation in showing it. Please a cat, it purrs and rubs itself against you. What could appear as contented as a cat? A dog wags its tail and looks more genuinely pleased to see you than any human. What could appear as happy as a dog? Could anything seem as peaceful as a cow? Or are these merely human projections?"

Excerpt form "When Elephants Weep, The emotional lives of animals"
by Jeffrey Masson
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OOPS. I accidentally flagged this post & couldn't find a way to undo it. sorry!
 
Hi guys, could you please help me in navigating this google+, coz i'm really having hard time in exploring this one..
 
If I could I would Jesh, but I am having the same issue. Im not so sure I am entirely happy with it either
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I'm not sure why anything dog related would be surprising (wonderous maybe but no surprise). Humans tend to adjust the world around them to fit. Just think of the personal settings on your laptop or cell phone. We cant wait to spend a couple days tricking something out. Well we have had 250,000 years to to "trick" out a dog. It's become a symbiotic relationship really.
 
um, how do I add people or find groups? Damn! ok, back to fb
 
It seems it love doesn't require a big brain ...
Dan Lin
 
so funny. i have a dog and it's too
 
Glad to see that I'm not the only one who watches Nova and learns stuff....
 
It's not just dogs, I had a cat that normally was all bad attitude lol but one night I was laying in bed horribly ill and she got up in bed with me and put her paws on my arm and watched over me all night. It was the weirdest and most uncharacteristic thing I'd ever seen; but sweet. I love animals <3
 
wow, great post for a very interesting documentary. In working with dogs we learn to 'read' them in order to understand what they are saying to us and as a search dog trainer lessons are given that teach handlers how to read the dog because this is how dogs communicate.
 
Dogs can totally read human emotion. Dogs feed on it. If you are afraid, your dog will become nasty to protect you, if its someone else dog they will be nasty towards you. Praise your dog with mass excitement in a high pitch voice watch your dogs entire body wag from excitement, when your tired... totally wiped your dog will sleep by your side.
 
I love when people share thoughts on movies, especially Netflix. Thank you!
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