Dogs are amazing, they can sense things before we even know what is happening. Assist dogs sense anxiety attacks and seizures before they happen and can warn their human. Many dogs have been bred with a specific temperament so that they could be service dogs. Generally many dogs just naturally have the feels.
For many years scientists have asked the question, what do animals feel? Do they have self-awareness? Do they have empathy? A couple of studies and experiments have been done and has come to the conclusion that animals do feel and show empathy.
In an experiement done with rats, they will press a lever for food continuously. One that same lever starts to cause another rat pain, they will stop pressing it.
Dogs and dogs
Dogs, show empathy towards us, their evolutionary companions, as well as towards each other. When dogs hear their four-legged housemates are in distress, their cortisol levels will rise. They will start showing stress signals like lip licking, yawning, a shake off, etc. Dogs will try to comfort their four-legged friends. I have noticed in my dogs that they’ll often lick the distressed dog’s muzzle or stretch into a play bow in front of said dog.
Dogs and humans
When we have the feels, our dogs know. They tend to stay closer to us, lick us or place their head on our laps or shoulders, or wherever they find a spot. Assist dogs are trained to lie on top of a person who is about to have an anxiety attack. That would create the same idea as a weighted blanket. I have found that when I’m feeling out of sorts, my shepherd mutt will come to lie down on me, both comforting me and smothering me at the same time. My other dogs, have other ways of showing empathy that are less dramatic…thank goodness.
A study was carried out to compare levels of empathy between service dogs and pet dogs. Through this confirmed that service dogs or therapy dogs, do not have special traits that make them more intuitive to people. In the experiment they did for this study, results showed that our pets had the same connection and responsiveness to people’s feels.
When they say that the best therapist has four legs and a tail, they do have a point.