Can Dogs Feel Cheerfulness?

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Introduction

There will probably always be a debate as to how dogs experience and feel emotions, but we sure have learned a lot over the years. Most dog owners will argue until they are blue in the face that dogs can love and hate, as well as feel a host of other emotions. 

And the good news is that most researchers will agree with you. Thanks in part to countless studies, we've discovered that our canine friends experience many of the same basic emotions as humans do. It is thought that dogs can feel the following emotions: 

  • Love and affection
  • Suspicion
  • Joy
  • Anger 
  • Fear
  • Disgust 
  • Contentment 
  • Distress
  • Excitement and Arousal 

If this is true, it means dogs can most definitely experience cheerfulness. While this cheerfulness may look differently in dogs than humans, it still exists. 

Signs Your Dog Can Feel Cheerfulness

It's pretty obvious when your dog is loving life and 100% content with you as their owner. While each dog is different, there's a good chance you will know when your dog is happy and cheerful. Many dogs will wag their tail at lightning speed, 'smile' at you with their tongue hanging out, and perhaps even jump around excitedly. You are the one who knows your dog best, so be sure and observe their behavior in order to get a better idea of what emotions they are feeling. 

According to some, a dog's ability to connect emotionally with humans and feel certain emotions isn't due to instinct or a learned behavior, but is a sign of cognitive ability. Dogs rely on their sense of smell, hearing, and sight to better understand their humans. They then associate this information with an image of an emotion. So when your dog is happy and cheerful, they will act in a way that feels good to them, but that also pleases you. 

Body Language

Here are signs your dog can feel cheerfulness:
  • Alert
  • Head tilting
  • Listening
  • Wag tail
  • Ears up

Other Signs

These are other signs that may indicate your pooch is feeling the love:
  • Following you around
  • Looking at you with those big puppy-dog eyes
  • Sticking close by your side

History Behind Dogs Feeling Cheerfulness

There has been a lot of research concerning how dogs experience emotions, and in order to understand how far we've come, we must go back in time. When philosophers and scientists alike first became interested in dogs' emotions, most of the studies were rooted in the church. Church scholars were the first ones to offer that humans have souls, and soon thereafter it was suggested that animals did as well.

Since most research at this time was funded by the church, it should come as no surprise that some of the first philosophers to address the subject of dogs and emotions held fast to the same point of view. Famed French philosopher, Rene Descartes, was one of the first to suggest that animals were like a sort of machine or robot that could be programmed to do - and feel - certain things.

Science has progressed in a major way since the time of Descartes and we now know that dogs do have the same brain structures that create emotions as humans. Furthermore, dogs have the same hormones and go through similar chemical changes during highly emotional times. 

Just like not all humans have a full range of emotions, the same can be said of dogs. Dogs are believed to have around the emotional capacity of a two year old - which means they can certainly feel the most basic emotions, such as cheerfulness.

Science Behind Dogs Feeling Cheerfulness

Emotions are what cause dogs - and humans, for that matter - to behave and react in certain ways in various environments. When your pooch wags their tail or showers you with slobbery kisses, it's a good sign they love you and are happy to be yours. Love, happiness, joy, and cheerfulness can all be lumped into one category when it comes to looking at how dogs experience emotions. This is because they don't have the ability to feel complex emotions like we do. 

Dogs also learn through observance and by paying attention to their human and other animals. Fido has probably figured out that the more he wags his tail, the happier it makes his human and the greater chance he has of getting a treat. 

We must also look at brain chemistry and structure when it comes to determining a dog's emotional capacity. Scientists have discovered that dogs rely on the same chemistry as we do when it comes to emotions.

Like humans, dogs' brains release dopamine (the chemical responsible for emotions like love and happiness) as well as adrenaline (the chemical that controls hate) when they are upset. Dogs then convey these emotions through barking, which can be difficult for humans to interpret at first. However, the more time you spend with your dog, the better you will become at interpreting their bark and knowing when they are bursting with cheer. 

Training Your Dog to Feel Cheerfulness

Training your dog to feel a certain emotion isn't really possible, just like you can't train a human to feel something. Emotions are very personal and unique to each individual - whether human or dog. However, there are a few things you can do in order to help your dog feel true happiness and cheer. 

Dogs aim to please their owners and respond well to kindness and love, just like we do. If you have recently adopted a dog and are trying to get them to trust you, it is important to focus on building a bond. When exposed to complimentary sounds - such as a high-pitched, sing-songy voice - research shows that dogs are able to recognize these as positive emotions. Talking to your dog in this type of voice will encourage them to trust you while letting them know you mean them absolutely no harm. 

How to React if Your Dog Feels Cheerfulness:

  • Reward good behavior.
  • Shower them with love!
  • Let them know you are happy with their behavior.