A zealous dog owner will tell anyone who will listen (and most who won't) that their dog is soooo cute and super smart and does all the best tricks. Tricks like sit, lie down, roll over, play dead, and possess a coherent theory of mind. Wait, what was that last one? Is that a college philosophy course for adorable puppies? Do they get little wire-frame glasses and tiny scarves? Nope: Theory of mind refers to a creature understanding that other beings have different perceptions, and that those perceptions can be valuable. It's a shockingly advanced societal concept, and one that pretty much any human being talking on their cellphone during a movie clearly does not possess. But dogs might.
5Dogs Are Capable of Empathy
Yawning is a phenomenon directly connected to empathy, and as such has only been found to occur in species capable of empathizing (i.e., humans and other primates), and only then within a single species. Humans yawn when they see other humans yawn; chimps yawn when they see other chimps yawn. You just yawned after reading the word "yawn" so many times in this paragraph. WE ARE INSIDE YOUR BRAIN.
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We absorb your breath through your monitor and use it to power our Internet machine.
The exception to the rule is, of course, dogs. Dogs can totally "catch" your yawn. Researchers aren't exactly sure why this is (they don't even know why yawning is so contagious among humans), but they speculate that humans have used yawns to indicate exhaustion since back in the day when language was little more than a series of farts and punches. Natural selection favored dogs that could communicate with us in as many ways as possible, and yawning just turned out to be one of those ways.
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"If you're exhausted, I'm exhausted too, because I love you."
What's more, when we're down in the dumps, dogs feel bad for us. The physical ways they respond -- tails tucked, heads bowed, bestowing our faces with tender, dog-sack-scented kisses -- is a form of consolation. This is why dogs make such fantastic therapy animals: It's like having a free shrink who follows you around, listens without interrupting, and works for table scraps. So obviously dogs have an uncanny ability to read our emotions ... but how? Well, it's because all humans, whether right- or left-handed, display our emotions predominantly on the right side of our faces. When we're looking at each other, whether gauging prospects for romance or assessing the likelihood of a knifing, it's the right side of the face we look at. It's called left gaze bias, and the only species known to do it are humans, rhesus monkeys ... and dogs. Although hopefully your dog is looking for neither romance nor potential stab buddies.
4Dogs Understand That Your Visual Perspective Is Different from Their Own
This may seem like common sense to your big ol' human brain, but it's actually pretty rare when we're talking about a lesser species: Your dog knows what you can see and understands that it's different from what he can see. And no, we don't mean that your dog knows you currently have a deluge of open browser tabs overflowing with porn. (Although he does. He knows. Look at his eyes. He judges you.)
And he wishes you'd use headphones.
Researchers tested this out by sticking a dog and a human on opposite sides of a room, in the center of which were two identical toys. They then separated the toys from the human with barriers: In front of one toy, they put a see-through barrier; in front of the other, a solid one. When the human commanded the dog to "Bring it here!" without any physical indication as to which toy she was referring to, the dog brought the toy that the human could see -- the one behind the transparent barrier. Unless the human turned her back, that is. Then the dog brought whichever toy it damn well pleased.
"I brought you the spiked double dildo because I love you."
Dogs, whose economy is largely based on leftovers and poop smells, even exploit this for their own benefit. When you tell Fido not to eat the Hot Pocket you just painstakingly nuked to perfection, he won't eat it as long as you're looking at it. But the moment you close your eyes, turn around, or put something between yourself and that breaded capsule of nuclear plastic cheese, your dog will lose all his canine morality and go for it. You know the old saying: On your deathbed, it will not be the Hot Pockets you ate that haunt you, but the ones you never even tried for.