ANALYSIS: It’s on the news. The results of a study which says that a dog’s heart rate increases by 46% when their owner says “I love you” to them. The study was conducted by Canine Cottages. I’ve not heard of them but four dogs were fitted with heart rate tracking collars to find out what got them excited and increased their heart rate. They did this for seven days. The average heartbeat was 67 bpm. When they were told “I love you” by their owners their heart rate increased by 46% to 98 bpm.
And when they were cuddled their heart rate decreased by 23% on average from 67 bpm to 52 bpm. The benefits were mutual because the results showed that the heart rates of the dogs’ owners increased by 10% on average when they saw their dog after being away from them for a period of time.
Comment: I have to comment on this because I think there’s been a slight misconception or an imprecision in the reporting of the study. I’m sure that the dogs who participated in the study enjoyed interacting with their owners when their owners were very friendly towards them indicating that they loved them. But dogs do not understand the English language. They don’t understand the words “I love you”. They do understand the body language of their owner and the affection that is being delivered to them and which is apparent in body language together with the sounds produced by their human companions. This affection would no doubt increase their heart rate temporarily. And it is common knowledge that pets calm people down. This is translated into a reduced heart rate in their owners.
On a wider issue, the subject of animal emotions is being discussed more often nowadays and the sophisticated level of those emotions is being revealed. The big question is whether companion animals can experience the higher emotions. We know they can be sad and happy but can they be jealous, for example? We don’t know as yet for sure, but it is nice to know that people are becoming more sensitive to the emotions of their companion animals and they should be alert to the possibility that their cats and dogs feel emotions which are far more sophisticated than they might have thought.