Scientists investigate common assumptions on a regular basis. Sometimes, their efforts provide scientific evidence for the truth of these common assumptions. For proof, look no further than a recent study that suggests that dogs do want to rescue their humans when they believe them to be in danger and distress. For those who are curious, researchers from Arizona State University conducted a series of experiments for the purpose of learning more about the bond between dogs and dog owners. The main experiment saw a dog presented with the sight of their dog owner stuck in a box with a door that was light enough to be moved by dog-power. To provide extra incentive, the dog owner cried out for help, having been coached to do so in a realistic manner beforehand. In total, 20 of the 60 dogs tested in this manner rescued their dog owner, though some of the other experiments suggested that a lot of the other dogs wanted to do the same but didn’t know how.
In particular, it is worth mentioning that 19 out of the 60 dogs opened the door in a different experiment in which the dog owner was absent but food was dropped into the box in open view of the dog. What is important is that 16 of the 19 dogs also rescued their dog owner in the other experiment, which suggests that an understanding of how to open the door was connected with the decision to rescue the dog owner as well as the decision to get at the food. Besides this, there was another experiment in which the dog owner read a magazine in a calm manner while in the box, which resulted in 16 of the 60 dogs opening the door to either get closer to their dog owner or to let their dog owner get out. Something that suggests that the dogs were more motivated to open the door when their dog owner was in distress than when their dog owner was calm. This was further supported by clear signs that the dogs were more stressed out when their dog owner was stressed out, which remained true in subsequent repetitions of the experiment. In contrast, when the experiment with a calm dog owner was re-run, the dogs became less and less agitated with each repetition. On the whole, this can’t be considered definitive evidence. However, it can be considered a reason to believe that dogs see rescuing their dog owner to be as rewarding as getting free food, which is quite good if one thinks about it. Unfortunately, there are still more experiments that need to be carried out before we can understand exactly what is going on in such situations, not least because we can’t just ask the dogs.
Why Are Dogs Willing to Risk Their Lives to Rescue Their Humans?
Unfortunately, while there are plenty of documented cases of dogs putting themselves in serious danger to rescue their humans, this means that we still cannot be sure about why this happens. However, that kind of thing has never stopped speculation, particularly since it is something that scientists have been looking into. For starters, humans seem to have developed a much deeper bond with dogs than with most of the other animals that we have domesticated over the course of our existence. One example would be the dog’s ability to empathize with humans. Something that was confirmed by an experiment that involved the usage of contagious yawning. Basically, an earlier experiment has revealed a connection between the ability to empathize and susceptibility to contagious yawning. As a result, when the experiment revealed that dogs yawn when humans yawn, that was seen as support for their ability to empathize.
Moving on, it is amusing to note that dogs have also apparently managed to coopt the parent-child bond in humans. In short, when a parent and a child lock eyes, that causes both of them to feel better as the hormone oxytocin is released in their bodies. It turns out that when a dog and a dog owner lock eyes, that causes oxytocin to be released in their bodies as well. Besides this, dogs are also quite good at reading humans, so much so that they can understand not just human expressions but also the human emotions behind those expressions. In any case, while we don’t have a clear idea of the bond between dogs and humans, altruism is something that can be found in many species in the animal kingdom. For example, there are a number of species that will call out to warn others when they spot a predator even though that will draw the predator towards them. Likewise, there are a number of species that will help each other out when they need it, with an excellent example being vampire bats regurgitating blood for their neighbors to feed upon. Considering the bond that seem to exist between dogs and humans, altruism becomes very reasonable.
Why Are Humans Willing to Risk Their Lives to Rescue Their Dogs?
Of course, just as how dogs are willing to risk their lives to help their humans, humans are willing to risk their lives to help their dogs. In fact, humans are so ready to do this that they can make the situation worse, which is something that interested individuals might want to watch out for. To an extent, this is very understandable. After all, a lot of us see our dogs as family members, meaning that the urge to help when we see them in distress can be overwhelming. On top of this, we tend to see dogs as being more vulnerable than us, which can be problematic because that can cause us to misjudge the situation. In particular, it is worth mentioning that there have been many cases of dog owners dying while attempting to rescue their dogs and the dogs managing to rescue themselves, which can be explained in part by the fact that dogs have certain capabilities that humans do not. In any case, when dog owners see their dogs in trouble, they should make sure that their intervention won’t make things worse while calling for emergency assistance.