Study finds that dogs get along better with women than men
Of all the things people argue about and disagree upon, there's one universal truth that no person can deny – dogs are the best. From having a companion to take with you when you begrudgingly decide to go out for a run, stopping and cooing at the sweet doggo at your local cafe, to endlessly scrolling through an Insta-pup's profile with a silly grin on your face – there's little that man's best friend can't do to make life approximately 100,000 times better.
Only... a new study is making me think it should actually be woman's best friend.
The research published last year has found that women are better at understanding what dogs want than men are. While anyone can recognise what mood their dog is in or what they're after when they growl, whimper or pant, it turns out that women have a much better understanding of dogs.
Researchers from the Department of Ethology (the study of animal behaviour) at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest recorded the sounds of 18 different dogs growling in response to being exposed to three different scenarios – guarding food against other dogs, playing tug of war, or feeling threatened when approached by something intimidating.
Forty people took part in the study, and they were asked to point out whether the dog's growl had a tone of fear, playfulness, aggression, despair or happiness in it. Using a sliding scale, the participants tried to figure out the context in which the dogs were growling. Overall, 63 per cent of people were able to successfully identify the context of the growl (compared to a chance level of 33 percent).
"We know relatively little about the vocal communication system of dogs, and the most studied vocalisation (not surprisingly) are the different barks," Tamás Faragó, the lead author of the study told Broadly, after pointing out that older studies have already shown that humans can understand different kinds of barks.
"Our recent fMRI studies suggest that dogs and humans use similar brain areas and probably similar processes to assess others' emotions from vocalisations," Faragó continued. "It seems that there are biologically rooted rules to how mammalian vocalisations encode emotions and these shared processes help humans to assess the emotional load of not just dogs but other mammal species' vocal emotion expressions."
The study found that dog owners were better at understanding these "encoded emotions" than people who didn't have pooches at pets, but most interesting of all was that women in particular were very good at recognising what the dogs were trying to communicate through their growls.
And it all comes down to the fact that we have more empathy and sensitivity.
"This is a common pattern in emotion recognition studies," explained Faragó. "Women are likely more empathic and sensitive to others' emotions and this helps them to better associate the contexts with the emotional content of the growls."
So next time you notice that little Fido listens more to you than he does your partner, you'll know why. And why not try something other than "Who's a good boy?" with the random dogs in the park – they might be up for some more scintillating conversation now that you know you're fluent in dog.