Spending hours watching dog videos on YouTube for science

Shutterstock.com/ Makarova Viktoria
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If you ever spent the day on Youtube watching videos of dogs doing cute things and later thought, I need to do something with my life, you are not alone. It is easy to get entranced by the incredible behavior of these wonderful animals. A new study has been released with incredible results. However, the most incredible thing may be that these people were paid to look at animal videos on YouTube all day. If you want to get paid to look at dog videos, we have the career for you.

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The study was focused on examining the behavior of different species of animals to see if they share similarities in how they communicate. There have been extensive studies in the past on animal communication within a species and some research into communication between humans and animals, but very little between different species of animals. For this study researchers looked at the relationships between dogs and horses.

When a dog approaches another dog, they are able to quickly communicate that they want to play. Whether it is with the sparkle of an eye or the wag of a tail a dog seems to be able to easily capture another’s dog’s interest in getting another dog into mischief. Researchers wanted to see if the same was true across species.

To find out, a number of researchers at the University of Pisa decided to watch YouTube videos of dogs and horses playing! What a great day at work. Maybe if the researchers spent less time watching animal videos and more time researching they wouldn’t have a tower falling down (I’m sorry, I know that joke is terrible). The work being done by the University of Pisa is serious work too, it just happens to be a little bit fun. The team watched 20 YouTube videos of horses and dogs at play and were impressed by their findings.

They found similar behavior in both the dog and the horse. Both animals relaxed with open mouths. They mimicked each other’s behavior and they copied each other’s facial expressions. All of these things are suggested to mean that bonding is taking place. The facial expression, in particular, was a powerful result as it has been seen in a number of species before but never across different species.

The results show that despite horses and dogs being totally different in build and behavior they are able to find a middle ground in behavior when together. This allows them to show the other animal that they mean no aggression and are happy to play together forming a secure bond. This is remarkable when you consider the average horse weighs around 900kgs and could crush a dog with ease. It is further remarkable when you realize that horses are predisposed to fear animals that look like wolves. 

The history of evolution suggests these animals should not be friends but the fact that both have now been domesticated for so long suggests they are overcoming those evolutionary habits. Researchers now hope to continue their research to determine if there is a universal language of play among a greater number of species. If there is good be a massive leap in learning to communicate with other species. Who knows, in the future, the learnings here could be used to communicate with aliens too as we could show we are not a threat to their species by mimicking their facial expressions.

The next time you catch yourself watching a few too many animal videos online, don’t worry. Tell yourself you are doing research for the benefit and future of humanity. If you are really watching too many dog videos, then send your resume to the University of Pisa and tell them Fact Ahead sent you.