5 min read


Can Dogs Feel Awkward?



5 min read


Can Dogs Feel Awkward?


Most of us have found ourselves in situations where we feel really awkward. There are all sorts of situations that can result in humans feeling awkward ranging from bumping into someone you’ve been trying to avoid or walking into an embarrassing situation at home or work. We often think that our pets can also feel awkward in certain situations. 

For instance, you may find that your pooch starts behaving differently when you do certain things or when a particular person calls at your house. However, this is not awkwardness in the same sense as in humans. With awkwardness in humans, the feeling stems from embarrassment. With dogs, it is more of a case of feeling uncomfortable with a certain situation or person.


Signs Your Dog is Uncomfortable

Your pooch may show clear signs of feeling uncomfortable in certain situations, which to us may come across as awkwardness. Your dog won’t feel embarrassed or uncomfortable if it walks in on you while you are getting dressed. However, it may show signs of being uncomfortable if, for example, you hold it too tightly when giving it cuddles. 

This is not the dog feeling awkward but more a sign of being uncomfortable because it cannot get away when you have such a tight hold.  Other situations may also result in your dog feeling uncomfortable, such as being around a baby or child.

When your dog is in situations such as this, there are various signs that it may display. For instance, some dogs will struggle and wriggle around, others will bare their teeth or growl, and some may whine in a bid to get out of the situation. 

The reaction you get from your pooch largely depending on the dog’s personality and the situation it is in. It can be easy for humans to get fear, aggressiveness, or discomfort confused with awkwardness in our dogs. However, a dog has no concept of feeling awkward or embarrassed and this is something to keep in mind.               

Your dog will most likely show a number of signs in terms of body language if it feels uncomfortable about a situation. The body language signs that are displayed will vary based on the actual situation that the dog finds itself in. 

For example, wriggling and struggling are common if the dog is being manhandled against its will. Slinking off and tail tucking may be evident if the dog is in an environment with people or animals that it does not know or relate to. By looking out for body language signs, you can better determine how your dog is feeling in a particular situation. 

Body Language

<p>Signs that your dog is definitely uncomfortable include:</p>

  • Growling
  • Whining
  • Tail Tucking
  • Exposed Teeth

Other Signs

<p>More cues of discomfort to watch for are:</p>

  • Turning Its Back
  • Lying With Head In Paws
  • Wriggling And Struggling

The History of Dog Discomfort


Canine emotions are not always easy to work out. This is largely because dogs have become so domesticated and such a big part of the family unit that we often assume that they have exactly the same emotions and feelings as humans. This is true to some extent. 

For example, historical research has determined that dogs feel pain and fear in the same way as we do. However, the difference is that very often they have no idea why they are being treated in a manner that causes this pain and fear. Trying to work out secondary emotions in dogs such as embarrassment and awkwardness can, therefore, be difficult because, in a dog’s world, awkwardness does not exist as such. 

In the same way, dogs are able to display signs that come across as awkwardness to us because we know exactly what awkwardness is. However, your dog has no idea, so the signs and feelings that it displays in certain situations are what we class as awkwardness. For dogs, it is just a case of feeling uncomfortable or even distressed because of the situation. Some researchers believe that dogs are able to feel this type of emotion - but not in the same way as humans and not for the same sorts of reasons.  

The Science of Dog Discomfort


A lot of research has gone into studying canine emotions over the years, but there is no doubt that as dog lovers we match their feelings to our own. Because we know we would feel embarrassed and awkward under certain circumstances we assume that our pets will feel the same.

However, research has indicated that self-reflective emotions cannot be felt or experienced by dogs – certainly not in the same way as with humans. For example, if you slip and fall on the sidewalk, you immediately feel embarrassed and awkward in case others have seen. If your dog falls, it will most likely just spring back up and get on with things. 

Helping Your Dog Feel More Comfortable


When it comes to getting your dog out of an uncomfortable situation, you first need to look out for some of the signs outlined above. Remember, you should not assume that because a particular situation would make you feel embarrassed and awkward that it will be the same for your dog. Instead, look out for signs that your pooch is not entirely comfortable in a particular situation so that you can determine what is causing it to feel this way. 

If your dog is in a new situation that it is not used to, you will most likely see some signs because your pooch may feel a little daunted due to the new situation. However, this does not mean that it feels embarrassed or uncomfortable. 

If, on the other hand, it displays this sort of behavior every time it is in that particular situation, you may need to look at taking it out of that situation or taking steps to make it feel more comfortable. For instance, if your dog wriggles and shows clear signs of feeling uncomfortable when you give it a tight hug, find other ways of cuddling and interacting that do not cause it to feel uncomfortable or stressed.

Also, remember that dogs can feel uncomfortable or distressed in certain social situations, such as when there are other people or even other animals around. One of the ways in which you can help to prevent this sort of emotion is through proper socialization, preferably during puppyhood if you have your dog as a youngster. 

Even if you get your pooch when it is older, you can still effectively socialize it so that it does not end up feeling out of sorts in certain situations. This can make a big difference when it comes to how your dog feels and reacts even in new or difficult circumstances.

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Written by a Boston Terrier lover Reno Charlton

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 04/20/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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