Can a Dog Tell Your Mood?

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Introduction

It may be true your Yorkie, Foxy, or Labra-Doodle knows you better than anyone. We tell them our hopes, dreams, and stuff we might never share with anyone. They are our confidante and silent counselor. We do the talking and our doggy mates listen with interest. No other animal on the planet has such an intimate relationship with humans. 

Dogs have learned to read us and understand our intrinsic emotions. It’s comforting to think they have our back and support us whatever mood we are in. Skeptics believe dogs are not capable of emotive interplay and denounce the thought at every instance. What do you think. Can a dog tell your mood?

Signs a Dog Knows How You're Feeling

Breakups are tough and there is never an easy way to navigate the avalanche of emotions. You sit quietly, wondering if you have done the right thing as your dog gently licks your hand. Paris, your diva Collie is a sensitive soul and gets upset when her mistress is sad. She’ll wine and woof in sympathy sensing her pet mom's mood.

Dogs are instinctive and feel our every mood from happy to sad, high to euphoric. They will play-bow to initiate good times or jump up and down to make us laugh. They are our best buddies and connoisseurs’ of how we feel.

Paris is no exception and loves to see her guardian smile. One of her favorite toys is a cute, black and white panda that right about now is being dropped on her pet moms lap. She barks as her owner starts to cry, as this wasn’t the response she hoped for. Paris tilts her head, staring into her guardian's eyes. Her ears are perked up, listening intently as she wags her tail. Dogs love a happy vibe but will be there when the chips are down. Their loyalty is immeasurable as they pour on their puppy-dog charm.

Animal behaviorist, Patricia McConnell, says when people are experiencing different emotions like fear and sadness, they can produce various odors we might consciously not be aware of. According to an article in Forbes, we can reveal our emotions to others with chemo-signals emitted from our bodies. It’s possible our dogs sense our feelings with their rock-star sense of smell.

A canine search-and-rescue professional and author of “Scent of the Missing," talks about how one of her dogs reacted to different people when in the midst of a rescue. The response by Puzzle, her dog, when people were afraid or hurt was to quietly approach the affected person. Another time Puzzle found a cheerful, drunken man and approached him in the same, happy way. This seasoned search-and-rescue pooch could tell the mood of each person!

Body Language

Here are signs a dog may show while sensing your mood:
  • Staring
  • Barking
  • Head tilting
  • Jumping up
  • Wag tail
  • Licking
  • Ears up

Other Signs

More signs a dog will show when tuning into how you feel are:
  • Attempting to make you happy
  • Bringing their favorite toy
  • Mimicking expressions
  • Nudging

History of Dogs Sensing Human Emotions

Since the discovery of DNA, scientists have been studying connections between wolves and that snoring woofer lying on the sofa. The DNA match between wolf and dog is approximately 98 percent, but dogs are no way like wolves, as they've evolved since living with humans

Scientific American highlights an experiment that lasted over 50 years and involved the domestication of silver foxes. The idea was to discover what genetic changes take place when an animal is domesticated over time. After generations of breeding, the tamed foxes exhibited similarities to the way dogs seek human attention and wag their tails if they are happy. Changes also occurred in their look, with floppy ears, different fur colors and changes to their jaw, skull and teeth shape. The physiological effects of domestication were evident and the flight or fight hormone (adrenaline) was reduced in the humanized foxes.

Domestication and selective breeding altered the essence of wolves and produced woofers that hang out with their pals at doggy, day-care and enjoy nice walks along the beach with their pet-parents. It also increased their ability to understand human friends and get inside their psyche. It makes you wonder if the same could happen with a lion or cougar. 

Dogs have evolved for around 14,000 years to get inside our hearts and minds and they’ve sure wasted no time working us out. They know what mood we’re in and can play best friend, along with the big tub of chocolate ice-cream. Having a dog sit with us through good times and bad is a privilege. They’ve worked hard to understand us and be our loyal companions.

Science of Dogs Picking Up on Your Moods

The science of dogs getting our moods is not that complex, as their minds are fairly attuned to ours. For a start, we are both mammals and are both reasonably smart.

Studies with MRI machines in Budapest, Hungary have shown us that dogs listen to our voices and read our emotional cues. According to the Daily Mail, it’s possible we’ve evolved together to achieve a unique synchronicity.

A study at the Columbia University ran a survey involving people with mental illness to assess what could help. They found pets improved their overall sense of well-being and need for companionship. Dogs help people with depression by offering a non-judgmental friendship that comes with a furry body to snuggle up to if you’re feeling down. They are miracle workers who decrease blood pressure and do wonders for stress and anxiety.

Emotional support dogs are a true blessing for people with psychological problems including bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and panic attacks. These are folks who can’t always control their moods and find the presence of a dog helps to stabilize their emotions and reactions.

To add proof to what dog owners already know, a study at Lincoln University was set up to check out if a dog could detect a person’s mood. According to BBC News, a variety of dogs were tested using sound and images. When the dogs heard a happy voice, they instantly looked at images of up-vibed people and when it was an angry voice, their attention reverted to the face that matched the sound. This means our marvelous mutts can see and hear the mood we are in.

Training Dogs to be Emotionally Connected

The lines are distinctly drawn between dog trainers who believe in force training and those who take a line of positive reinforcement. For a woofer to feel close and secure to its human owner, it's common sense that their early training years should be an encouraging experience and one where humans are viewed as kind and compassionate.

A parent teaches their child how to function in the world with patience and love. If the same child is bullied or punished for not getting things right, they are likely to have psychological issues to combat in later years. It’s therefore appropriate to train a puppy in the basics with benevolence and reward. Dogs are not humans, but by domesticating them we have changed their wolf-nature.

The argument among dog trainers as to whether their owner should establish themselves as the Alpha is also an ongoing debate. Dog trainer, Victoria Stilwell, believes this practice is out-dated and comes from a belief that dogs still operate like their wolf ancestors. The tradition of alpha rolls, where a dog is pinned on his or her back in the name of compliance, stems from a 1940’s study of wolves in captivity.

Observations of wolves in the wild have since noted a different thinking, as these doggy grandparents form family groups with mom, dad, and the kids. Traditional dog trainers believe teaching a dog to be subservient is the correct way, while a mountain of new-age trainers beg to differ.

Science studies are proving our mutts see us as family and embrace our emotional states. Even police dogs taught to attack on command are now being trained with encouragement and reward. Back in the 1960’s, K9s were forced to do elements of their job with a compulsory training approach. This made police dogs unpredictable.

As researchers unveil the secrets within the minds of canines, we are in awe of their ability to sense our moods. This closeness that enables a dog to comfort a depressed guardian is based on trust, not conformity.

How to React When a Dog Knows Your Mood:

  • Stroke their head for comfort.
  • Thank them for being your friend.
  • Talk to them about how you are feeling.
  • Share with others how your dog can tell your mood.
  • Read amazing articles about dogs sensing peoples emotions!