Emotional intelligence is defined, very basically, as the ability to recognize emotions; in yourself and in others.
Studies have shown that living with dogs improves our emotional intelligence as humans significantly – but what about the EQ of our dogs?
Recent research done on a group of dogs showed that their brains went through the same hormonal changes as humans while experiencing an emotional state. Science suggests that dogs develop to the intellectual level of a two-year-old child, but the emotional level of a teenager – which means that while they don’t possess the full-range of emotions as adult humans, they do recognize a lot.
Here are five signs your dog is emotionally intelligent.
1. He looks guilty when he’s done something bad
Have you ever come home only to find a torn pillow, or a chewed pair of shoes, and your dog nowhere to be found? And chances are, when you did find him, he was hiding away, looking extremely guilty.
Research suggests that this expression isn’t actually guilt, but rather the dreaded anticipation of an angry reaction to something he’s done that he knows is wrong.
But your dog’s ability to recognize right from wrong, and when you’re not going to be very happy, makes him emotionally intelligent.
2. Yawning when she’s not tired
Most of us naturally associate yawning with tiredness, but like humans, dogs actually yawn in response to emotions as well.
Dogs can yawn as a sign of anxiety in a stressful situation, and they also tend to mirror their owners’ yawns. A study involving 25 pet dogs seemed to prove that dogs yawn as a way of displaying empathy and trying to be in-tune with our emotions.
3. He can read your facial expressions
Most of us can pretty easily identify basic emotions in people’s facial expressions, and it turns out, so can our dogs.
In one study, dogs were shown photos of people with various facial expressions displaying different emotions. Dogs were able to identify and react to various happy and angry emotions in human facial expressions, which usually is only possible within our own species.
The relationship between us and our dogs truly is unique and special.
4. The head tilt
Everybody loves that famous doggy head tilt. We all know it’s adorable, but science has proven there’s more to it than that.
Studies suggest that when a dog perks its ears and tilts its head, what he is doing is trying to interpret our emotions. Dogs don’t understand everything when we speak, but they do understand certain words, and more so, tone of voice. So when he’s tilting his head, that’s him trying to understand what you’re saying based on your inflection.
5. She’s of a herding, working, or retrieving breed – or even a mixed breed
Originally descended from wolves, who couldn’t make noises while chasing prey, dogs developed with a keen ability to pick up on body language and other non-verbal communication. But certain breeds are better at this than others.
Humans have been breeding dogs for 14 000 years, but there are breeds that were bred more recently than others, like herding, working, and retrieving breeds. These include German shepherds, Alaskan malamutes, and English Setters, to name a few.
Because these breeds were bred more recently by humans for a specific purpose that usually involved working with humans, these breeds tend to have a greater emotional intelligence and greater ability to interpret non-verbal communication.