4 min read


Can Dogs Feel Kindness?



4 min read


Can Dogs Feel Kindness?


Dogs are complex beings that can indeed experience a wide range of emotions. As anyone who owns a dog can attest to, the tremendous amount of love we carry for our dogs can be almost overwhelming. But are they really reciprocating those feelings? 

While there are different schools of thought on the subject, recent studies have shown that our furry friends experience more feelings than previously thought. While they may not have the capability to feel as deep of emotions as humans, there is evidence that they understand and feel kindness from people. 

Dogs are intuitive creatures who largely feed off of the energy they sense from humans and other animals. They are loyal, loving animals who will stand by their owner's side through thick and thin. Not only can they sense kindness from people, but research indicates they may also be able to tell if a person has acted kindly in their life. Pretty cool, right?


Signs a Dog Can Feel Kindness

The more time you spend with your dog, the better you will become at reading their emotions. It is usually pretty obvious when your dog is happy or not feeling well, as they display certain behaviors that make this clear. 

Over time, we've come to interpret our dog's actions as specific emotions or feelings, such as happiness, anger, or disappointment. Dogs are keen observers and base a lot of their actions and reactions on what they see from their humans - both positive and negative. Furthermore, our canine companions pay closer attention when they hear emotions in your voice. 

When it comes to kindness, dogs pick up on cues from humans, even when we don't know we are giving them out! Many believe dogs can actually tell when a person has a kind face. Some of the signs that your dog is feeling the love include:

  • Wagging tail
  • They become your constant companion
  • Tongue hanging out 
  • Looking at your with loving, longing eyes 

Just like humans, every dog is different and shows their love and emotions in various ways. When it comes to kindness, some dogs may simply take note and sit by your side, feeling protected and safe, whereas others will cover you with sloppy kisses until you can't take it anymore!

Body Language

These are signs your dog feels kindness:

  • Alert
  • Head Tilting
  • Wag Tail
  • Tail Up
  • Tongue Hanging

Other Signs

Here are a few other signs your dog understands kindness:

  • Displaying Specific Facial Expressions
  • Looking At Your Lovingly
  • Yawning When You Yawn
  • Following You Everywhere
  • Rolling Over For Some Belly Love

History of Dogs Feeling Kindness


Many years ago, it was thought that dogs did not have a deep emotional capacity and were not able to experience feelings similar to that of humans. Thanks to evolution, time, and science, things changed and we started to learn more about the mental prowess of dogs. Philosophers and scientists alike have come up with various theories in regards to the relationship between dogs and humans, as well as how dogs experience feelings. 

Perhaps the most well-known person to take a stab at how dogs experience emotions was French philosopher and scientist Rene Descartes. Descartes believed that dogs - as with other animals - do in fact have a soul and consciousness. 

He also thought dogs could be programmed, in a sense, to experience certain emotions and perform tasks. Since then, we've learned even more about these loyal, enchanting creatures and how they experience emotions. 

Science Behind Dogs Feeling Kindness


As science has progressed, we've come to learn that dogs possess the same brain structure that produces emotions in us, humans. They also have similar hormones and undergo the same chemical changes in highly emotional times. Contemporary science has learned that while dogs have a similar chemical makeup to humans when it comes to emotions, they experience these emotions on a much more basic level. Whereas a human continues to develop emotionally for several years, dogs reach their emotional maturity at around six months, give or take. 

Some of the basic emotions dogs can feel include joy, surprise, disgust, fear, sadness, anger, curiosity, envy, love, and kindness. No matter how big or small, dogs have some of the largest hearts out there! They are incredibly intuitive and can sense when a person is up to no good or could cause them harm, but more importantly, they know a kind-hearted person when they see one. 

Training Your Dog to Feel Kindness


Dogs are complex creatures that have a mind of their own, which means you can't necessarily train them to feel certain emotions. However, they are highly trainable animals that can be taught to respond in a certain way to specific individuals and circumstances. Dogs listen and observe as a way to determine what their reaction should be, which is where consistency and patience come in when training. 

If you want to teach your dog to react to people who show them love and kindness, start with basic obedience training. Once they have those commands down (think: sit, stay, roll-over, come, lay down), you can start introducing more intricate commands. 

With a lot of work and even more patience, you will probably be able to train your dog to show they understand kindness when they meet people. Of course, all dogs are different and this may not be in the cards for some, but it's certainly worth a shot. 

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Written by a Chihuahua lover Allie Wall

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 04/12/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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