A new study published in the Open Science journal revealed that dogs mimic other dogs’ behavior. The mimicking behavior is called emotional contagion, which consists in sharing another person’s emotion and is basically a form of empathy. This especially applies to humans and primates.
Dogs mimic other dogs because they are social animals, like the primates. In order to express themselves, they use their tail, teeth, eyes, head and bodies. Dogs use facial mimicry, which is an easy way of mimicking expressions.
49 dogs were used for the study conducted at the University of Pisa, in Italy. The study involved recording the dogs on tape while they played in a park in Palermo. The dogs were pure breed or mixed and the recording was done with the approval of their owners. The author of the study, Elisabetta Palagi, said that they used the park because it is more natural and that behaviors can be inhibited by a laboratory. The expressions of the dogs and their actions were recorded for 50 hours. Whether they had their mouths open or closed or whether they barked or wagged their tails, it was all noted by the researchers.
The researchers gathered a lot of information on the dogs and they even knew whether the dogs were acquainted or not. The owners were asked if there were animosities between the dogs or if they were friends. Information regarding the times that the dogs interact with each other was also required from the owners.
Quickly after being let to play and wander in the park, mimicry between them has been observed. It was noted that dogs mimicked each other especially when they were friendly towards one another. Dogs who were already familiar presented more mimicking than dogs who met for the first time. According to the author, the more stronger the friendship was, the more mimicking was recorded. She said that this includes humans as well, us being more inclined to smile or laugh if one of our friends triggered it.
Other studies showed that dogs even mimic humans’ emotions and face expressions. For example, if a human yawns it is possible that the dog will yawn as well. Palagi said that it is possible that the dogs mimic humans because they were domesticated by them. She even said that wolves should be involved in the next study in order to see if the domestication is the only one responsible for the mimicry.
As the study concluded that dogs mimic other dogs behavior, we are left wondering what other animals mimic each other.
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