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Published: Jun 12, 2012

A good friend always offers a shoulder to cry on, and a recent study offers even more insight as to why the canine has always been known as man's best friend. A study conducted by researchers at the University of London found that dogs will respond to almost any person who is expressing intense emotion - whether it is their owner or not, UPI reports.

The researchers developed a procedure to examine whether domestic dogs did, in fact, respond to emotions in humans as much as many people think they can. In the study, published in the journal Animal Cognition, 18 pet dogs ranging in age and breed were exposed to four 20-second displays of human emotion - crying, humming strangely and talking casually.

The majority of dogs looked at, approached and touched humans who were crying. The dogs showed more interest in these individuals than those who hummed in a strange manner or carried out casual conversation, the news outlet reports.

What was perhaps most interesting was that the dogs responded to every human's emotions, not just their owners', according to one researcher, Jennifer Mayer. She noted that this suggests dogs selflessly care for humans.

"If the dogs' approaches during the crying condition were motivated by self-oriented comfort-seeking, they would be more likely to approach their usual source of comfort, their owner, rather than the stranger," Mayer said. "No such preference was found. The dogs approached whoever was crying regardless of their identity. Thus they were responding to the person's emotion, not their own needs, which is suggestive of empathic-like comfort-offering behavior."

Indeed, this comfort-offering characteristic of dogs is a common reason why people get a canine companion and care so deeply for it. If you are considering adding a dog to your family, VCA Animal Hospitals recommends heading to your local shelter or rescue league instead of breeding dogs. Adopting a dog reduces the number of dogs that are euthanized in shelters each year, which is currently an estimated 5 to 10 million. 

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