Back

Get started

Customized by You

Design your pet’s plan in less than 60 seconds.

Dogs show empathy like humans | Sad child hugging dog

Dogs show empathy like humans

Q: Please tell me it’s not my imagination that Barkley, my 3-year-old dog, has a great deal of empathy for me. When my back hurts, he lays his head on my lap and licks my hands. Does he know when I’m hurting, or is it all in my head?

A: Barkley senses your pain, and he’s doing what he can to comfort you. Much research documents similar behaviors and explains why dogs make such good therapy animals.

In one study, 75 pet dogs and 74 people listened to three sounds: a baby crying, a baby babbling and radio static. When levels of the stress hormone cortisol were measured, the dogs and humans reacted the same.

Cortisol levels shot up when the baby cried, but were normal at other times. Humans described the radio static as unpleasant, and the dogs flattened their ears and lowered their heads and tails, suggesting they felt the same.

In another study, 18 pet dogs heard three sounds made by a human family member and a stranger sitting six feet apart: crying, speaking and humming in a curiously unusual staccato cadence. The dogs ignored the speaking and humming but went to each person who cried, whether family member or stranger, and attempted to comfort them the way Barkley consoles you.

So, thank Barkley for his concern, because he really does care.


Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at askdrlee@insurefigo.com

More From Figo Blog
Labrador Retriever retrieving a blue frisbee from the yard

One of the best things about owning a dog is...

You may have heard the phrase, “Cats can’t...

woman drinking coffee and holding small cat near

On any given day, between 50 and 70 million...

Pet Professionals: Interview With Kristen Levine Pet Blogger | Figo Pet Insurance

We recently had the opportunity to interview...

Technology has changed almost every aspect...

With many states lifting stay-at-home...

Puppy crate training in progress

There are many tools I utilize when training...

Q: Astro, our 11-year-old cat...