There’s an interesting article at the Washington Post on what you can learn from observing dogs at play:
A shaggy brown terrier approaches a large chocolate Labrador in a city park. When the terrier gets close, he adopts a yogalike pose, crouching on his forepaws and hiking his butt into the air. The Lab gives an excited bark, and soon the two dogs are somersaulting and tugging on each other’s ears. Then the terrier takes off and the Lab gives chase, his tail wagging wildly. When the two meet once more, the whole thing begins again.
Watch a couple of dogs play, and you’ll probably see seemingly random gestures, lots of frenetic activity and a whole lot of energy being expended. But decades of research suggest that beneath this apparently frivolous fun lies a hidden language of honesty and deceit, empathy and perhaps even a humanlike morality.
My experience has been that dogs have a very well-developed sense of fairness. That varies somewhat from dog to dog, of course, just as it does from human to human. The most extreme example I’ve ever known is that our first dog, Qila, when offered a treat in exchange for some behavior or other (sit, stay, etc.), would refuse the treat if the behavior wasn’t something he wanted to do.
I don’t think that this
Other studies have revealed that dogs yawn when they see humans yawning and that they nuzzle and lick people who are crying; scientists consider both behaviors displays of empathy, a rarely documented trait in the animal kingdom.
is being properly interpreted. For dogs yawning is a sign of stress. When you yawn, they assume you’re stressed and yawn back to calm you down. However, not only do I think that dogs have empathy, I think their sensory equipment is much better attuned to identifying what’s wrong with you than ours are. We’ve got to ask. Dogs know where your aches and pains are by your scent.