Secrets Dog Knows

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      Your Secrets Dog Knows About You, Can Your Dog Read Your Mind … Let’s Think

      University of Milan researchers had dogs watch some people sharing food with a beggar and other people telling the beggar to leave. Later, when the individuals beckoned the dogs at the same time, the pups overwhelmingly trotted over to the generous people.

      You don’t like someone

      When you have negative feelings about a person, I can hear your breathing pattern change, observe your body stiffen slightly, and even smell the subtle pheremones your body emits. So if your in-laws suspect that I don’t like them, it may simply be because, um, you don’t really like them

      Where you’ve been

      You humans are like sponges. You pick up volatile organic compounds from everything you walk by or touch. If you just visited, say, the supermarket, I will smell the butcher and fish counters, the food you bought, and maybe even the people you stood next to at checkout. I can smell something 100 million times more subtle than the faintest smell you can pick up.

      You may have cancer

      Some of us are being taught to detect different types of cancer by smelling certain chemicals that cancer cells can emit. In some studies, we were 88 percent accurate in detecting breast cancer, and 99 percent accurate in detecting lung cancer

      You’ve had a fight with your spouse

      Even if you don’t yell in front of me, I may notice your clipped tone of voice, the fact that neither of you is speaking, the stiffness of your posture, or the agitated way you’re walking or opening drawers. Some of us get sick to our stomachs when our owners are bickering.

      You need protection

      Do I sleep cuddled up next to your bed instead of in my usual spot when your spouse is out of town? Do I stay closer to your leg than normal when we walk through a dark area? I can smell the adrenaline your body releases when you’re scared, and I’m also more vigilant anytime someone in the household is missing.

      You’re going on a trip

      I hate it when you leave, so I’ve learned to pick up on all the clues when a departure is imminent–suitcases pulled from the closet or the way you always spread clothes out on your bed. Some of us start to shake and pant because our anxiety spikes. Feel bad? One study found playing classical music for us when we’re alone can help us calm down.

      You’re a sucker for our puppy dog eyes

      Researchers have found that your body releases the hormone oxytocin (the same chemical that’s released when you look at your baby) when we make eye contact with you. So there’s a reason we gaze at you lovingly when we want something: It works.

      What your intentions are

      I can pick up nearly imperceptible signals in your body language–a darting of your eyes or the way you grab the leash–that tell me what you’re planning. In one study, dogs were easily able to identify the location of hidden food simply by following a human gaze.

      You’re not feeling well

      We can be trained to sniff out everything from a drop in your blood sugar to a migraine. A growing number of epileptic patients are getting dogs that alert them to a seizure before it happens. In one Hawaiian hospital, dogs sniffed out urinary tract infections in paralyzed patients who couldn’t report symptoms.

      Your baby is weak

      I know your little one is a member of my pack, and I also know she’s the most vulnerable. Because I have a strong instinct to guard my family members, I can be extremely protective. That’s why I bark aggressively when someone approaches the stroller and why you should be vigilant if someone is playing with your child while I’m around. (If I mistakenly think she is getting hurt, I may attack.)

      You’re bummed out

      I am a master at reading your body language and emotional state. One study found that I can tell if someone’s sad simply by reading facial expressions (even if I’m looking at a photo of just half a face!). I’m also more likely to approach someone who is crying than someone humming or talking, an indication of empathy.

      Sources: Dog trainer Sarah Wilson, author of My Smart Puppy; Patty Khuly, VMD, a veterinarian in Miami, Florida; dog trainer Dina Zaphris, founder of the InSitu Foundation; Laurie Santos, PhD, director of the Canine Cognition Center at Yale University; Stanley Coren, PhD, a psychologist and the author of Do Dogs Dream?

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