Dog lovers have always known it, but now science seems to be lending weight to the idea that our canine best friends emphasise with us when we are sad.
In fact, research published this month in the journal Animal Cognition suggests that that dogs may respond more to our emotions than anyone other species - and that includes other humans.
They will approach strangers in distress to comfort them, regardless of expectation of reward or care.
The research by Goldsmiths University doctors concluded that dogs nuzzle and lick humans they think are in distress - behaving in a submissive manner designed to offer comfort.
Eighteen pet dogs, spanning a range of ages and breeds, were exposed to four separate 20-second experimental conditions in which either the dog's owner or an unfamiliar person pretended to cry, hummed in an odd manner, or carried out a casual conversation.
Significantly more dogs looked at, approached and touched the humans as they were crying as opposed to humming, and no dogs responded during talking.
The majority of dogs in the study responded to the crying person in a submissive manner consistent with empathic concern and comfort-offering.
Dr Deborah Custance of Goldsmiths, University of London, said: 'The humming was designed to be a relatively novel behaviour, which might be likely to pique the dogs' curiosity.
'The fact that the dogs differentiated between crying and humming indicates that their response to crying was not purely driven by curiosity.
‘Rather, the crying carried greater emotional meaning for the dogs and provoked a stronger overall response than either humming or talking.’
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