If you want to better connect with your dog, sharpen your emotional empathy, a new study says. Aside from spending more time with your dog, and practicing to understand it better, the study thinks that your personality, and particularly how intensely you empathize, also plays a role. The study finds that those who can decode canine cues better are actually more emotional.
According to the study, publishes in the journal PLOS ONE, experience alone does not make you a dog whisperer. A personality which responds intensely to emotional cues is found to be the key role that enables you to easily train your dog. In the study, 34 volunteers were recruited, most of whom had experiences interacting with dogs in considerable capacity.
Among them, 26 had grown up with a family dog, 16 had pet dogs themselves, and 15 described themselves as “active in dog-related hobbies” such as hunting or training dogs to obey commands. The first part of the study had the volunteers looking at a series of images of both human and animal faces. To gauge emotional empathy, they were then asked to rate each one on a scale of positive to negative, and specifically pinpoint their reaction to the photo on a range of emotional arousal, the EurekAlert reports.
They were also asked to rank the levels of happiness, sadness, surprise, disgust, fear, and anger displayed on the face. Afterward, the participants filled out The Big Five Personality Traits questionnaires, and other tests that measure their empathy toward other people and animals. Finally, the results show that the participants generally read the dogs about as well as they read other humans.
According to the Science of Us, those who scored more highly on the empathy tests also tended to rate both dog and human faces in the extreme side of the spectrum. They rated the images as more positive or negative, and more emotionally arousing. Their higher emotional empathy helps them reach their decisions in interactions more quickly.