Dogs can empathetically evaluate humans’ emotional states. However, whether dogs are motivated by empathy to provide help to humans in need is unclear. In this study, dogs’ behaviors were observed while their owner sat behind a door and either cried or hummed. Dogs that were more skilled at regulating their emotional stress responses and had stronger bonds with their owners were more likely to help those owners. This supports the theory that an empathetic response is only possible when an individual can suppress their own distress enough to focus on helping someone else.
Sanford, Emily M., "Timmy's in the Well: Empathy and Prosocial Helping in Dogs" (2017). Psychology Honors Projects. 42.
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