Dogs are wired to protect and rescue their owners, a new study has found — and it’s more proof that they really are our best friends.
The research, which was conducted by Arizona State University, analysed 60 pet dogs to see how they would react to their owners being distressed. In order to gather the information, each owner was placed inside a large box with a lightweight door (it was light enough for the pups to move it out of the way).
Once the human owners had been placed inside, the dogs were allowed into the room. Each owner cried out for help from inside the box but didn’t saying the name of their dog.
What did the study find?
Out of the 19 dogs in the study, 16 of them successfully released their owners from the box. “About one-third of the dogs rescued their distressed owner, which doesn’t sound too impressive on its own, but really is impressive when you take a closer look,” Joshua Van Bourg, a psychologist from Arizona State University, told Science Alert.
While all of the dogs in the study wanted to save their owners, some dogs didn’t know how to move the door out of the way. “The key here is that without controlling for each dog’s understanding of how to open the box, the proportion of dogs who rescued their owners greatly underestimates the proportion of dogs who wanted to rescue their owners.”
© Westend61 – Getty Images Happy bernese mountain dog looking at camera, his owner smiles next to him
Elsewhere, the researchers also ran another test, but this time without the owners calling for help. Instead, they were simply sat in the box quietly reading a magazine. In this test, 16 dogs opened the door to get to their owners.
“During the distress test, the dogs were much more stressed,” Joshua continues. “When their owner was distressed, they barked more, and they whined more. In fact, there were eight dogs who whined, and they did so during the distress test. Only one other dog whined, and that was for food.”