"Indeed, a study showing that pets, namely dogs, behave as 'upset' as children when exposed to familiar people faking distress, strongly suggests 'sympathetic concern,'" Silva and Sousa write. "Also it has been reported that untrained dogs may be sensitive to human emergencies and may act appropriately to summon help, which, if true, suggests empathic perspective taking."
In experiments, dog owners feigned a heart attack or pretended to experience an accident in which a bookcase fell on them and pinned them to the floor. The dogs in these studies just looked confused and didn't do much, but the scientists think canines need to also smell and hear signals tied to actual stress in order to respond. In other words, you probably can't easily fool a dog when it comes to emergencies.
Another study found that therapy dogs are both emotionally and physically affected by their work, "needing massages and calming measures after the sessions," according to the authors.
Silva and Sousa argue that dogs have the capacity to empathize with humans for three main reasons: