It also has some breed (Breed groups) relationship if to strangers...Some breeds are more tolerant and happily interact more with strangers. hence those dogs do better as therapy dogs and rescue dogs. It is why it is almost impossible to train some dogs as rescue dogs, meaning search and rescue or Water rescue. it is a need to be near people and to "help" people, they like the meeting of strangers during the training period, some breeds do not. A lot of dogs will be like this to their owners but not strangers.
There was an article ones on a experienced search and rescue trainer, who was asked to train some breed usually not used for a short period to see what they would be like...this was part of a behaviour study. Most search and rescue dogs come out of the Working/utility/gun-dog group (a couple from non-sporting, but they are in those groups overseas). He actually said there was an incredible difference and how difficult it was to train some of these dogs out of the other groups. Cross breeds were included in their main group. I have tried to find the write-up, but I have too much in my bookmarks now
My breed is particularly sensitive to peoples mood, age and even disablement.......If we argue (luckily not often) our dogs will put themselves in the middle. Katy will nudge you, Annabelle looks devastated and Lukey, probably due to his previous life, wants to hide. Tessa, who is a golden cross will kinda join in with a talking session LOL. It does make us laugh and usually defuses any argument
But I do notice our dogs around kids especially at the places we go......If a child is upset, they will often go over and just sit. Katy especially tries to interact with sad people. Often placing her big heavy head in a lap or just looking. But what often makes kids laugh is that she will offer behaviour, she know will make people laugh, such as play dead, nudge, offer toys, or playbow.
I am not sure if it is true empathy, but I do think that they prefer us to be happy and as they work of happy, they can come across as sad when the people around them are