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Dogs can single out human emotions

Thursday January 14th 2016

Dogs have special intuition when it comes to recognising human emotions, new research has found. This makes canines the only non-humans to have this sixth sense.

They do this through combining data from different faculties, according to a joint British-Brazilian collaboration between psychologists and animal behaviour specialists. The study of 17 pet dogs shows that the pooches' instincts go beyond learned behaviours alone.

They actually create two different emotional representations of people, both negative and positive. Scientists discovered this by using pairs of images. These images showed dogs looking hostile or playful or people looking angry or cheerful.

The dogs were then played recordings of people saying "come here" in Portuguese either angrily or happily. They were also played aggressive or playful barks.

The pooches regularly looked at the images which suited the voice pitch, frequently choosing the correct human facial expression. Biology Letters, the Royal Society's journal, has printed the Sao Paulo and Lincoln University academics' report.

Copyright Press Association 2016