Your dog doesn't trust you when you're angry

May 23, 2016 by Jon Mcbride, Brigham Young University
Credit: Noël Zia Lee, Wikimedia Commons

BYU psychology professor Ross Flom recently conducted a study to find out just how well dogs understand humans, specifically human emotion.

"We know that dogs are sensitive to our ," Flom said, "but we wanted to know: do they use these emotional cues?"

Flom conducted two experiments where he looked at the frequency in which dogs followed a pointing gesture to locate a hidden reward. Those gestures were paired with either positive or from the person pointing. Positive behaviors included smiling and speaking in a pleasant tone. Negative behaviors included frowning, a furrowed brow and speaking in a harsh tone.

The main finding of the study is that dogs use in determining how quickly or how slowly they're going to go and explore an unfamiliar location. While positive behaviors didn't improve response time from the control group, negative behaviors, which simulated emotions closely tied to anger, delayed the .

You can read more of the findings from the study in Animal Cognition. Peggy Gartman, a BYU masters' student in psychology, is listed as a co-author. Darren Gunther, James Parker and Will West contributed as undergrads.

For Flom, as well as other dog lovers, the study further confirms something long known.

"There is a unique and special bond between humans and dogs," Flom said.

Even when you're angry.

Explore further: Babies can read each other's moods, study finds (w/ Video)

More information: Ross Flom et al. Does affective information influence domestic dogs' (Canis lupus familiaris) point-following behavior?, Animal Cognition (2015). DOI: 10.1007/s10071-015-0934-5

Related Stories

Babies understand dogs

July 20, 2009

New research shows babies have a handle on the meaning of different dog barks - despite little or no previous exposure to dogs.

Dogs know that smile on your face

February 12, 2015

Dogs can tell the difference between happy and angry human faces, according to a new study in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on February 12. The discovery represents the first solid evidence that an animal other than ...

Recommended for you

How sex pheromones diversify: Lessons from yeast

January 22, 2019

Many organisms including insects, amphibians and yeasts use sex pheromones for attracting individuals of the opposite sex, but what happens to sex pheromones as new species emerge? New research publishing January 22 in the ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.