4 min read


Can Dogs Feel Approval?



4 min read


Can Dogs Feel Approval?


Many, many years ago it was thought that dogs didn't feel any emotions at all and everything they did was based on instinct. Science has proved that this is false, which is something you don't have to tell dog owners twice. 

However, when it comes to emotions and dogs, things are a little more complicated than many people realize. Yes, they can feel and understand emotions on a basic level, but that's where it stops. Scientists and researchers often say that dogs have the emotional capacity of a 2.5-year-old child, which puts things into perspective, if you ask us.

When it comes to approval, things are a little tricky. Every dog is different, but one of the most basic things your pup wants from you is approval and love. Now, is this approval in their eyes the same as we view it? That's the million dollar question. 


Signs Your Dog Feels Approval

While it's true dogs don't have the same range of emotions we do, they are incredibly dynamic animals that feel quite deeply. There are a handful of basic emotions they can experience, including love, happiness and joy, disgust, anger, sadness, surprise, fear, curiosity, envy, and confusion. So where does approval fit in, you may be wondering? This is up for interpretation by each dog owner, but many scientists lump approval in with love. 

Your dog wants to please you and will often do anything to be rewarded by you, which is a type of approval, if you think about it. They sit when you tell them, come, roll over, snuggle with you, and behave well to the best of their ability all with one thing in mind - your love and approval.

So how can you tell if your dog is feeling the love? This should be pretty obvious, but many dogs will wag their tails, look at you with those big, puppy-dog eyes, obey your commands, listen to you, and have an overall relaxed demeanor. Keep in mind that different breeds will show these emotions differently, so it is important to observe your dog and take note of when they appear relaxed, at ease, and far from anxious. 

Smaller breeds like chihuahuas, for example, are notorious for being a bit more high strung and have a hard time with new people. They may take quite a bit longer to warm up to you and really want that approval, but when the time comes, you will have the most loyal companion for life!

Body Language

Here are some signs your dog is seeking your approval:

  • Listening
  • Wag Tail
  • Tail Up
  • Licking

Other Signs

These are other signs your dog can feel your approval:

  • Obeying Commands
  • Acting Loyal
  • Relaxing Around You

History of Dogs Feeling Approval


As we mentioned, it was first thought that dogs did not have the same emotional capacity as humans do. However, over time we have learned that dogs can sense emotions such as love, acceptance, envy, and approval. Furthermore, scientists have also proven that dogs can even sense what people are feeling. Pretty cool, don't you think? Depending on what school of thought you adhere to, dogs live for your approval and will do anything to make you happy. 

Over time, what we have come to understand about dogs has evolved quite significantly, which has not only made us better dog owners, but has turned us into companions to these wonderful creatures at the same time. 

Science Behind Dogs Feeling Approval


Thanks to the progression of science, we have learned that dogs have the same hormones as we do and also undergo many of the same chemical changes during emotional times. Dogs have the hormone (oxytocin) that directly affects how they experience love, affection, and approval for others. Humans also have this hormone, so it is not too out of the box to say that dogs can experience some of the same emotions as humans do.

However, it is important not to run away with this and assume your dog has the same emotional capacity that you do. Dogs can feel these basic, positive emotions, but science has shown that one of the strongest emotions our canine companions experience is distress. So while your dog may be working hard to get your approval, this very act could be stressing them out and causing them some level of discomfort. Our dogs are very special, life-changing animals, but it is important to take the time to better understand them in order to make sure you both are happy and satisfied.

Training Your Dog to Feel Approval


As you've probably realized by now, we are lumping approval in with love as one of the top emotions dogs can feel. While these emotions are inherently different, they share a lot of the same characteristics and, for dogs, go hand in hand. When it comes to training your dog to feel approval or love, time and patience are the only real solutions. 

When you first bring a dog into your life, it is important for you to take the necessary time to let them settle in and get used to you. In many cases, it will take a few days, weeks, or even months for your dog to trust you completely. This is especially the case with rescues or dogs that come from an abusive home. With this in mind, your patience, understanding, and support are absolutely critical to how and when your dog will feel approval from you. 

It is in their nature to want to please their owner or 'master', and this is evident in the way they interact with you and how they respond to your training efforts. While you can't train a dog to love you, you can start by teaching them basic obedience and began to establish a routine. By doing this, you are showing them that you are committed to their greater good and not going to harm them. 

By working on basic obedience as often as possible when you first bring your dog home, you will be helping them to better understand you and your intentions. Do your best to come up with a regular routine and show them the ropes of what your life will be like. From there, they will grow to love you and will want your approval every chance they get.

Have questions or concerns about your pet?

Chat with a veterinary professional in the Wag! app 24/7.

Get Vet Chat

By a Chihuahua lover Allie Wall

Published: 03/21/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

Wag! Specialist
Does your pet have a supplement plan?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews


© 2022 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.