You know all those times you joked that you prefer your dog to your workmates, or even your partner?
Except it turns out you weren’t joking. And now science agrees.
Recent research in the Society and Animals journal suggests that people feel more empathy for pooches than fellow humans. And not even their own dogs – any dogs.
Researchers showed four fake news stories to over 250 people. The story was the same in each, but the subject different. An ‘unknown assailant’ had beaten a victim with a baseball bat, leaving them unconscious with a broken leg and multiple lacerations.
The casualties were a baby, an adult man, a puppy and a six-year-old dog. So which victim got the most love?
Here are the results, in order of most-to-least empathy: the puppy, the baby, the older dog, then the adult man. To be fair, the first three were pretty close. It was the adult human who got short-changed in the empathy stakes.
In short, we love dogs so much, we’re more concerned about their wellbeing than human wellbeing. And if they’re our own dogs, well, as the researchers said, ‘Subjects did not view their dogs as animals, but rather as 'fur babies', or family members alongside human children.’
People prefer dogs, says science
That’s true. Keeping dogs can be a vital part of living a healthy life. A massive 2017 Swedish study of over three million people found that owning a dog can decrease the risk of death by 33% among people living alone.
That all backs up what studies have shown for many years, that keeping a dog can boost your oxytocin levels. That means lower rates of heart disease, better mental health and an increased sense of wellbeing.
Another recent study found a good reason why we're so attached to our dogs. The team discovered that dogs are more facially expressive when we’re paying attention to them. Ploys to suck up to us include raising their eyebrows and making their eyes bigger.
The study’s author, Bridget Waller from the University of Portsmouth, said, "[That] tells us something about how domestication has shaped [dogs], and that it has changed them in order to be more communicative with humans, in a sense."
What do you reckon? Dogs or people?
Dogs help towards a healthy lifestyle