To those unacquainted with dogs, their behaviour can sometimes make them appear to be simple-minded animals which rely entirely on instinct.
In reality, dogs, like their wolf and fox cousins, are very much capable of displaying an underestimated level of intelligence.
They are highly sociable creatures who understand humans, in more ways than one might think:
1. Dogs empathise with other creatures
The reason why dogs are often employed as therapy animals is because they are one of the few animals capable of displaying empathy.
That’s why when you are feeling down, your dog will actually approach you to comfort you, because they know you’re in a bad place.
How do they know what you’re feeling? Most humans display their emotions instinctively on the right side of their face.
This phenomenon, called the left gaze bias, has been observed in humans, rhesus monkeys, and unsurprisingly, dogs.
Their physical responses, including tucked tails, bowed heads and comforting licks, are their way of trying to comfort you.
2. Dogs know you see differently from them
Scientists have deduced that dogs understand what they see is not the same as what humans see.
A study was carried out by placing a dog and a human on opposite ends of a room, which had two identical toys at the centre.
One toy was placed behind a transparent barrier, and the other behind an opaque one.
When the human instructed the dog to bring the toy to them, the dog always went for the toy the human could see.
But when the human turned around and repeated the instruction, the dog picked either toy it chose.
This is why some dogs act like angels at the dining table, only to steal food off plates when they know no one is looking.
3. Dogs can trust human judgement
Have you ever eaten a delicious chicken drumstick only to find a furry paw on your knee right afterward?
In a 2012 study by the University of Milan, it was found that dogs want to eat what you eat because they know you like it and they trust your decision.
When humans were observed by dogs enjoying a smaller plate of food compared to a bigger one, the dogs would also choose to eat from the smaller plate.
Hence, dogs want to share your meals together with you, even if you actually have a terrible sense of taste.
4. Dogs know what pointing is
While this fact may be common knowledge, it is also interesting to note that the only two creatures who understand what pointing means are humans and dogs.
Even monkeys and apes don’t display as much understanding about pointing as dogs do.
Evolution is responsible for allowing dogs to understand; for they already know humans see things differently, and whatever humans are pointing at might be beneficial and humans can be trusted.
You don’t even have to physically point at an object to arouse a dog’s interest; it has been observed that if you stare at something, dogs will investigate what it is you are staring at.
5. Dogs can be jealous
It has long been theorised that dogs are capable of feeling jealousy, and research seems to be proving that is indeed the case.
In one such study, two dogs were made to perform tricks, but only one was rewarded for its success.
Eventually, the one that went unrewarded stopped performing altogether, instead showing its unhappiness at the unfairness.
Dogs, like humans, have the same emotional hormone oxytocin that makes them more attached to people.
This can result in possessiveness and consequential hostility to other dogs or even people who may appear as a threat to their established relationships.