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Dogs Mimic Each Other's Emotions To Bond, Like Humans

Dec 29, 2015 01:37 PM EST
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Dogs can rapidly mimic each other's expressions, according to a new study. Although this characteristic was previously thought to be unique in humans and a few other primates, researchers say dogs share their emotions to bond.  

Being able to interpret facial expressions and body movements indicates dogs have the basic levels of empathy, which may have evolved in our canine companions following domestication. For their study, resarchers from the Natural History Museum, University of Pisa, examined the behavior of dozens of female and male dogs of different ages and breeds, according to Discovery News. In less than one second after being introduced to each other, many of the dogs were seen copying the expressions and behaviors of others. 

"We demonstrated that rapid mimicry is present in dogs and it is an involuntary, automatic and split-second mirroring of other dogs," lead researcher Dr. Elisabetta Palagi told BBC News. "A dog while playing with another dog can read their motivation and the emotional state of the other dog by mimicking the same expression and body movement of the other dog."

For example, if one dog bowed down on its front legs, indicating they were ready to play, another would do so almost instantaneously. Being able to pick up on another's emotions is useful in close relationships, such as those between dogs and humans.

"If you live in a group and you share with companions many interests and goals, you must understand his or her emotional state, and the only way to do that is to 'read' his or her behavior and facial and body expressions," Dr. Palagi added. "Via emotional contagion, you take part in a social life; you create an emotional bridge between you and others. It is essential for the social life to evolve."

Furthermore, researchers found that dogs whoe were already familiar with one another demostrated moods that were more in sync.

The study was recently published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

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