In July, The New York Times ran the article Lassie Got Help, Would Your Dog? Which posed the question: how empathetic is your dog?
With help from animal behavioral scientist Julia E. Meyers-Manor, 34 dogs and video recorders, the study set out to see just how ready some pups were to help their guardians. They placed pet parents alone in a small room with a window and a magnetized door that could be pushed open easily, called a “trapped-other paradigm” which was taken from a previous study with rats. While some pet parents neutrally said “help” or hummed songs (part of the control group), others cried out or quite literally cried (in the distress condition group). The dogs’ behavioral and physiological responses were then recorded, including opening the door and even measuring heart rates.
Their findings? Most pups came to their pet parent’s rescue!
- Dogs in the distress condition group opened at the same frequency, but significantly more quickly, than dogs in the control condition group.
- In the distress condition group, the dogs that opened showed lower levels of stress and were able to suppress their own distress response, thus enabling them to open the door more quickly.
- And of course, after watching the video, you’ll “never underestimate a pug.”
Read more about their study, Timmy’s in the Well: Empathy and prosocial helping in dogs, and check out the full video above. How do you think your dog would fare in the trial?
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