Even as young children, we laugh when we see someone laughing, and we cry when we see someone in distress. Our ability to "catch" the emotions of others is called emotional contagion. A common form of emotional contagion is yawning. If you see, hear or even think about someone yawning, you will probably feel an irresistible urge to yawn.
Even though Maggie did not yawn during the game, it does not mean she is not empathetic. It could be that if you waited longer, she would have yawned. Perhaps in the past you have seen her yawn when you yawned. However, to compare Maggie to other dogs, all dogs have to play the game the same way.
Eye Contact Game
Recently, therapy dog programs have utilized the dog-human relationship for health benefits. One study found that children in a hospital who played with a therapy dog reported pain that was four times less than children who spent the same time relaxing.
In this game, you timed how long Maggie held your eye contact. Before babies can hug or speak, they use eye gaze to bond with their mothers. Research with dogs has shown that a similar phenomenon may also be happening with owners and dogs. Owners whose dogs stared at them for longer had significant increases in the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin, also known as the "hug hormone," is related to feelings of bonding, pleasure and affection.
Judging by the extraordinary length of time Maggie spent gazing soulfully into your eyes, you probably often find her staring at you for no reason. You might wonder if Maggie is trying to tell you something, like she is hungry, needs to go to the bathroom or wants to weigh in on an interesting issue you've both just seen on television. But Maggie may not want or need anything - she may just be seeking your gaze because she is just hugging you with her eyes.