Can Dogs Feel Disappointment?

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Introduction

Disappointment is something that most of us are used to. This could be for many different reasons ranging from our career or financial situation to our relationships and more. This emotion is perfectly natural and one that many people experience on a regular basis. However, what about our dogs? Can they feel disappointment in the way that we do? 

Well, we know that there are hormonal and chemical changes in dogs when they go through certain emotions, just as there are with humans. While it is unlikely that your dog will feel disappointed about the same things as you would, your pooch may feel disappointed about certain things and this is something that can be displayed in various ways.

Signs of Disappointment in Your Pooch

So, how can you tell if your dog is feeling disappointed? Obviously, they will not display the same signs as humans would if something has not turned out as hoped. However, there are certain signs that you can look out for. Sometimes, your dog will whine more than usual if feeling disappointed. 

For instance, perhaps you were about to take your pooch for a walk but then got waylaid by something else. Obviously, your dog will already have built up excitement over their walk and will feel an emotion that we might describe as "disappointment" when nothing happens.

You may find that in cases such as this, your dog will look up at you quite intently, paw at you, whine, and may even simply lie down with their head flat on their paws – a sign that they have possibly given up on getting what they wanted! Paw tapping, pacing and following you around, and an obviously long face are additional signs that your dog may display when feeling disappointed. 

Dogs are quite adept at moping around and if your pooch feels disappointed, you may find that this is exactly what they decide to do. You may even see your dog sighing as a result of their disappointment – a surefire way of putting you on a guilt trip! 

One of the ways in which you may be able to determine if and when your pooch is experiencing disappointment is through their body language. Your dog may start paw tapping you to try and get your attention or they may simply stare up at you soulfully or lie at your feet with their head down. Some dogs may simply slink off and go and sulk in private – you may even notice that your dog ignores you or turns away when you call as a result of their disappointment. Being able to look out for these signs will enable you to determine what may be wrong so you can take action. 

Dogs have individual personalities and so they will have their own ways of showing their disappointment. Following you around is one of the common signs they may show, as is trying to get your attention some other way. Often, these signs are to remind or encourage you to do remedy whatever it is that caused your pooch to be disappointed in the first place.

Body Language

Some signs to watch for if you think your dog may be disappointed include:

  • Staring
  • Whining
  • Paw raised

Other Signs

More cues that your pooch is definitely disappointed are:

  • Sulking
  • Paw tapping
  • Long face
  • Soulful look
  • Lying with head on paws
  • Moping around

History of Dogs Getting Disappointed

As we know, dogs have not always been domestic household pets. Centuries ago, their main purpose was to work and they were certainly never disappointed on that score because there was always plenty of work for them to do. 

However, now that they have become fully fledged family members within households, they have come to expect certain things such as treats, walks, and cuddles because this is how we have taught them and brought them up within the family unit. It is therefore not surprising that our four-legged friends feel disappointment when they are expecting to get something such as a treat, some playtime, or their dinner but nothing is forthcoming.

Many dogs even know when to expect their owners back from work and will wait patiently for them when the time comes around. On the same note, many also realize when it is time for their owners to leave and go to work, and this can cause disappointment. 

Research has shown that, like humans, dogs can feel disappointed about things although they don’t know the definition of disappointment clearly. However, it is the types of things that they feel disappointed about that differ from humans. Dogs are not disappointed about material things in life but about things that affect them personally. 

The Science of Dogs Getting Disappointed

Canine emotions can be very complex, as has been proven during decades of research into this subject. They cannot identify what disappointment is like humans can but they do express emotion – in fact, dogs are very emotional creatures. 

This is why you will see your dog acting differently in situations such as not getting their walk, not getting their dinner on time, or even being shooed out of the room when they want to spend time around you. These are all situations that will affect how your dog feels, which in turn will affect the way in which they behave at that particular time. 

Dealing with Canine Disappointment

As with any emotion, you cannot train a dog not to feel something. If they are in a certain type of situation, they will experience a particular emotion that is linked to that situation. So, if you have got your dog ready for their walk and then you get distracted and forget about it, your dog will be disappointed. If you were about to give your dog their dinner and then the doorbell goes, your dog may spend ages sniffing around their food bowl in the hope that you will return pretty swiftly. 

If this doesn’t happen, they will experience what we class as "disappointment". As humans, we feel disappointed if we are hoping for or expecting something to happen and then it never does. Well, it works in a very similar way for dogs.

One of the key ways to prevent disappointment in your pooch is to make sure you don’t promise things and then fail to follow through. If you have their leash ready for a walk, make sure you go on that walk. If you have just opened some treats or food, don’t wander off and start doing something else – give your pet what you promised. 

Making sure you follow through on what you promise is an important part of helping prevent disappointment. Of course, you cannot prevent disappointment at all times – after all, if your dog gets disappointed when they see you getting ready to go to work, there is little you can do. 

If you find that your dog is not adept at dealing with disappointment or they are creating additional problems, you can even bring the matter up with a canine behavior professional. They will be able to assess your pooch and work out ways of helping them to be more patient and cope more easily with emotions such as this. 

How to React to a Disappointed Dog:

  • Try to work out what has caused your dog's disappointment.
  • Follow through on promises.
  • Speak to a behavior therapist if your dog is struggling to deal with this emotion.

We Want to Hear About Your Dog Showing Signs of Disappointment!