Will your dog come to your aid in case of distress?

US researchers in the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University have decided to set up a study to determine the situations in which dogs would come to rescue their owners.

This trial is composed of several experiments on 60 companion dogs, not trained in rescue.

What tests have been carried out?

Three tests have been set up: the distress test, the food test and the reading test.

During the distress test, the masters were locked in a box accessible only through a hatch that needed to be opened by their companions so that they could enter.

Dog owners had to voice their distress without calling their animal. Calming signals such as nose licks or yawns have been observed. The dogs therefore felt the distress of their owners. However, only 1/3 of the dogs managed to join their master.

At first glance these results seem poor, that's why the food test was set up. A treat was thus placed in the box without anyone in it. 19 out of 60 dogs managed to retrieve the food.

This is how scientists were able to hypothesize that 2/3 of the dogs did not succeed in reaching their master not because they did not want to help them but because they did not succeed in moving the hatch at the entrance to the box.

However, these experiments do not really prove that the animals wanted to help their handler and the conclusion that the dogs simply did not wish to be away from them was expressed.

The reading test was therefore carried out. The owners were locked back into the box, but this time they were asked to be calm and read a magazine. 16 out of 60 dogs managed to open the box. Even though this test scores lower than the distress test, it shows that most dogs opened the box in order to be with their handler.

What are the conclusions of the scientists?

This study highlighted the fact that dogs care about their owners, even without being trained for rescue.

She also demonstrated the concept of emotional contagion, confirming the transmission of stress from humans to their dogs.

The question now is whether a dog stressed by his master’s distress is trying to rescue him for his sake, or if it is just to reduce his own stress.