3 min read

Are Dogs Able to Sense Our Emotions?


It should come as no surprise that dogs are capable of intense feelings. As highly social, pack animals they have their own social structures and bonding rituals, many of which mirror human social structures. To your dog, you are family. What you feel, she feels. It is as simple as that.

A 2011 study found that modern, domestic dogs are roughly as intelligent as a 2-year-old human. They are capable of understanding the meaning of roughly 165 words and can make sense of body language. There are many human emotions your dog understands that you may not be aware of. Sometimes their abilities can be downright eerie, but there are strong scientific explanations for your dog’s behaviors. Understanding how your dog interprets your emotional state can help you relate better to your pet.

  1. Dogs Know When You Are Sad
Have you noticed that when you're upset, your dog comes immediately over to snuggle? Or that when you cry, your dog may go run and hide? When you are expressing sadness, your dog will immediately pick up on this and adjust his behavior accordingly. Usually, your dog will quietly observe you from a corner of the room. After a while, he may come over and lie down at your feet or gently rest his head in your lap. Many dogs will even try to lick away tears as they fall. A dog’s master is the center of his entire world, so sensing your feelings of sadness will have an effect on him too.

A recent study published in the journal Animal Cognition, found that dogs respond to weeping with submissive behavior. In other words, dogs seem to be trying to placate a person who is upset. What is more, dogs will approach anyone who is upset the same way, regardless of whether that person is their owner or not. The scientists insist that this study does not prove that dogs experience empathy, but it certainly goes a long way to supporting the claim. It also clearly indicates that dogs can identify sadness as an emotion that is different from other feelings.


  1. Dogs Can Sense Your Intentions
Most of us have experienced our dog’s almost supernatural ability to sense when something unpleasant is about to take place. Somehow before you turn on the water or grab the towel, your dog knows you intend to give him a bath and will immediately run for cover. The same goes for haircuts, nail trims and trips to the vet. It turns out that dogs use eye contact and gaze to figure out what people are thinking. Just as a mentalist will follow your gaze to determine what is on your mind that you don’t want him to know, so too will dogs follow your gaze to get a read on what you are thinking. Because of this, dogs can tell what you're thinking but most will submit to unpleasant experiences, such as nail trims, if their owner is close by to offer some reassuring words and gentle encouragement – they know it's for their own good


  1. Dogs Pick Up on Your Fear
Fear is an emotion shared by a large number of animals, dogs included. Anytime you feel scared, your dog knows about it almost immediately. Your dog’s nose is so sensitive he can pick up on subtle human scents, such as adrenalin, that he associates with fear and danger. Dogs, like humans, have a customary reaction to fear. Their hair stands up, their pupils dilate, their lips curl, and their stance changes. If you have a protective breed such as a Rottweiler or Doberman, then your burly protector will most likely spring into action and come to your rescue. Smaller dogs, or those with more nervous temperaments, will follow your lead. Your dog will always look to you for guidance on how to react in certain situations, so if you want your dog to be brave you will have to lead by example.

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