If you have a dog, you’re communicating with him or her every day — telling your pet to sit and stay, asking if he needs to go outside, or just giving her lots of love and belly rubs. If you feel like you understand your pooch better than the rest of your family —especially the men — well, you’re right!
A study done in May 2017 reveals that people can understand what dogs are trying to say when they growl — and that women can comprehend their furry friends the best.
The study, published in The Royal Society, recorded 18 dogs doing three different activities: being threatened, guarding food, and playing tug-of-war. All these activities made the dogs growl in response. Then, 40 people listened to two sets of recordings and ranked the growls on a sliding scale. For the “emotional” part, participants decided the mood of the dog and chose from the feelings of “aggression, fear, despair, happiness, and playfulness,” using a sliding scale. The participants also chose which situation they thought the dog was in — guarding food, feeling threatened, or playing.
Before participating in the study, people were asked “basic background information on age, experience with dogs, and whether they have ever been bitten by a dog.” The authors said that those who owned dogs were more accurate with their answers, and that women scored higher than men.
The reason? Women are more sensitive to others’ feelings — and that apparently includes canines. “Women are likely more empathic and sensitive to others’ emotions and this helps them to better associate the contexts with the emotional content of the growls,” Tamás Faragó, the lead author of the study, said to Broadly.
The authors write that the context of what the dog was doing had a “significant effect” on how the participants evaluated the dogs’ emotions. Playful growls were rated the lowest in aggression, and “food-guarding growls scoring the highest on the aggression scale.” The results show that the participants found little difference in the fearfulness and despair growls, as well as no noticeable difference between growls of playfulness and happiness. According to the study, “participants classified correctly 63 percent of the growl samples.”
Although it’s not a huge study, this is the first study ever to have humans (somewhat) successfully analyze dogs’ growls. “We know relatively little about the vocal communication system of dogs, and the most studied vocalization (not surprisingly) are the different barks,” Faragó said to Broadly.
We’re flattered to be considered “more empathetic and sensitive to others’ emotions,” but it’s really no surprise to us. Although dogs might be “man’s best friend,” it seems like women are the better friend, doesn’t it?