Your dog might understand you more than you think.
It appears dogs can ‘catch’ yawns from humans – but it seems to work best when there’s a bond between dog and man.
Dogs yawn even when they only hear the sound of their owners doing the same, researchers have found.
A study found that nearly half of all dogs yawned when played a recording of a human being making such a noise.
But when the yawn played belonged to their owners, the canines were five times more likely than if the voice belonged to a stranger.
The researchers said it was further proof that dogs empathize with their owners and understand what they are going through.
In her report behavioral biologist Karine Silva, the lead researcher, said: ‘These results suggest that dogs have the capacity to empathize with humans’.
Previous studies have found that dogs are among the few non-human animals to yawn – others include macaques, baboons and chimpanzees.
When somebody ‘catches’ another person’s yawn it has long been taken as a sign you understand what they are going through – and are tired as well.
To see if canines do the same researchers from University of Porto in Portugal tested 29 dogs which had lived with their owners for at least six months.
They recorded the owners yawning and played the recordings to their dogs, along with the yawn of an unfamiliar woman and a control sound, which was a yawn noise played backwards.
The dogs were given two sessions one week apart and the number of yawns for each noise was monitored.
The results showed that when dogs heard their owners they were by far more likely to yawn than under any other set of circumstances.
Scientists who were not involved in the study said it gave new insight into human and dog relations.
Evan McLean, a Ph.D. student at Duke University’s Canine Cognition Center in Durham, North Carolina, told Science Now: ‘This study tells us something new about the mechanisms underlying contagious yawning in dogs.
‘As in humans, dogs can catch this behavior using their ears alone’.
But Ádám Miklósi, an ethologist at the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, raised a note of scepticism and said that previous studies showed dogs looked guilty even when they were not.
He and said: ‘Using behaviors as indicators will only show some similarity in behavior, but it will never tell us whether canine empathy, whatever this is, matches human empathy.
‘Dogs can simulate very well different forms of social interest that could mislead people to think they are controlled by the same mental processes, but they may not always understand the complexity of human behavior.’
The research will be published in the July issue of Animal Cognition.
Attribution: Daily Mail