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Researchers studying in the University of Pisa, Italy, recently carried out a study to see if dogs have empathetic tendencies and mirror the behavior of other canines to establish a bond, as seen in the case of humans. The findings of the study were quite interesting, as the researchers found out that dogs do mimic their fellow canines; up until now, primates like chimps and orangutans were seen to be the only animal species that showed such tendencies. Discovering the prevalence of such traits in dogs only reinforces what we have known all this while, that dogs are intellectual creatures.Dogs can perform rapid mimicry
The researchers in Italy, came to the conclusion after observing nearly 50 hours of video footage. The video recorded canines playing in a Palermo park. The researchers evaluated the dynamics between the dogs and how they interacted with each other as a part of the study. They looked for cues like bowing or crouching that dogs usually use when they are trying to be playful. What they noticed was that dogs took just a split-second to mimic the movements and facial expressions of other canines. Labeled as rapid mimicry, as it happens in a split-second, researchers say that it is not a trained response but rather an involuntary response.Why are dogs empathetic?
Humans have been known to use empathy in social settings to develop bonds for years now. Humans automatically return a smile for a smile, a laugh for a laugh, sharing each others’ emotions. Dr. John Bradshaw from Bristol, commented on the same, saying that dogs love playing, and imitating each others' actions could probably be their way of thinking that they would get to play for longer this way.Of course, the aching question here is if dogs can understand the emotions and thought process of other canines all that well? That cannot be confirmed for sure, and needs further deliberation and scientific evidence, say researchers.This isn't the first time that empathetic actions of dogs have been recognized. In the past, it has been seen that dogs can copy yawns when they see humans do so. As far as perceiving and understanding the body-language of other dogs goes, domestic dogs have shown to do that quite well. In fact, domestic dogs can even read the body language of humans quite well, which is also why they can be trained
so easily.The interesting question here is, if dogs have picked up these traits due to domestication or if it has been present from the time of their ancestors. More research is expected to be carried out to shed some light on the same. The Royal Society Open Science journal published the research study.