You know that feeling you get when you hear your baby cry — the discomfort, the worry, the need to help? It turns out, dogs feel it, too.
A growing body of research is proving what dog owners have known forever: Our pooches feel emotions — and, more specifically, they can feel empathy towards other people’s pain. To prove it, University of New Zealand researchers exposed 75 pet dogs and 74 people to 10 minutes of the following sounds: a baby babbling, a baby crying and radio static. Then, researchers checked their cortisol levels for indicators of stress. Neither human nor dog responded much to the sound of a baby babbling or the radio static. But the sound of the baby crying caused a dramatic rise in cortisol levels in both species. It’s a reaction that lead author Ted Ruffman to describe it as low-level empathy.
“Emotional contagion is a primitive form of empathy,” Ruffman told the New York Times. “It is plausible that when breeding dogs, humans would have selected for qualities that facilitated emotional links between dogs and humans.”
Want to see some canine empathy in action? Watch the YouTube video below of a boxer stressing over a newborn baby’s cries—a video that has since racked up more than 5 million views!
Featured image and video courtesy of ElectricNoodleSoup on YouTube
Do your pets love your babies? Tell us how in the comments below!