Can Dogs Feel Sad?

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Introduction

As a dog owner, you know your dog has different emotions. They act out of pure joy when you get home from work, get insanely excited for their favorite treat, and show anger when something upsets them. Sometimes it may even seem like your dog is feeling a little blue. Maybe they are sleeping a lot or don't like to play fetch sometimes. 

Is it possible that your dog is feeling the emotion of sadness? Feeling sad from time to time is a completely normal emotion for humans, and guess what, it is for your furry friend too.

Signs of a Dog Feeling Sad

There is a multitude of signs you can look out for to tell whether or not your dog is sad. One of the first signs to look out for is a change in your dog's behavior. Only you know how your dog normally acts, so this is going to vary from dog to dog in different ways. If your dog is normally excited when you get home, and then suddenly does not seem as interested, they may be going through a period of sadness. 

Another sign to keep an eye out for is pacing. If your dog is pacing a lot if they normally don't pace around the house, something may be going on with them. Changes in their sleeping patterns may also signal emotional distress. Lethargy is a common sign of sadness and should not be taken lightly. 

Changes in appetite are similar to why we see changes in a dog's sleeping pattern when they are sad. Your dog may also begin to engage in destructive behavior. Maybe they will begin to chew on a couch, steal pillows, tear up their toys, or rummage through your trash bins for some super delicious hidden treats. This type of behavior signals they are restless, agitated, or unhappy. 

Your normally sweet and docile pup may also begin to show some aggression towards you or other dogs. This is a sign to look out for and something that needs to be identified and addressed with your dog as quickly as possible. Having your dog snapping or biting you and others is dangerous. 

Finally, if your dog begins to engage in excessive paw and leg licking, if their ears are always down and drooping, and they avoid making eye contact with you, these signs can all point to your dog feeling sad. 

Body Language

Here are som signs your may notice if your dog is sad:
  • Ears drop
  • Pacing
  • Tense jaw
  • Dropped Ears
  • Snapping
  • Averting eyes
  • Tail tucking
  • Licking

Other Signs

Here are some other signs your dog may be sad:
  • Sleeping Pattern Changes
  • Appetite Changes
  • Abnormal Behavior

History of Dogs Feeling Sad

There is a long and surprisingly complicated history about dogs and whether or not they could experience emotions like sadness. Centuries ago, it was believed that dogs had the ability to feel complex emotions just like humans. These included sadness, happiness, joy, fear, excitement, and others. 

However, when science began to become more prominent and advanced, humans began to switch gears. Scientists began to discover that all living things were built from chemical and mechanical processes and some religious leaders would later add that they believed life was more than just a series of chemical reactions. 

For instance, they would conclude that humans have souls because we experience complex feelings and emotions that we cannot always control. This then leads to the common belief that although animals and dogs had the same chemical and mechanical processes of humans, they did not have the divine and special spark humans possess and therefore could not experience human-like emotions. 

Fast forward to many years later, to the world we know today, and we know that dogs can actually feel primary emotions like happiness, sadness, and excitement. It is even argued dogs can experience more complex emotions, but that is still up for debate within the scientific community. The history of dog's emotions is rich and complex and is still changing, evolving, and growing to this very day. 

Science Behind Dogs Feeling Sad

Research has come to conclude that dogs have the equivalent mental process and emotional range of a 2-2.5-year-old. Dogs go through their developmental process much faster than a human baby can. That means by the time your dog reaches four to six months of age, they can feel all of the emotions a two-year-old child can. 

These emotions include sadness, happiness, joy, excitement, and even love! Studies have proven that dogs can go through and process sadness in a similar way that humans do. 

Training Dogs to Stop Feeling Sad

There are a few different ways you can help your dog to feel less sad if they are going through a challenging time. One of the best ways to make sure you can pull them out of their funk is to give them a routine. Dogs love routine and are complete creatures of habit. Routines give your dog something to expect and look forward to which means they can count on certain things to happen on a day to day basis. 

Therefore, scheduling when they eat their meals during the day, planning out playtime, setting aside time for a walk, or even taking them to the dog park a few times a week to play with their doggy friends can often work wonders for your dog's mood. You want to try and keep their minds busy and their attention elsewhere so they can really focus on the things in their life that make them happy. 

You can also make sure you are giving them plenty of love and attention as well. You don't want to reward them for any negative behavior that stems from sadness because this can make them feel like your increased love and affection is condoning that behavior. 

Rather, you want to add a lot of extra love when they are excited and acting like their normal self. This will help teach them that when they are being good and also behaving well, they will receive the love and affection they very much need. 

How To React If Your Dog is Sad:

  • Give them love and affection.
  • Make a routine for them.
  • Keep their minds busy.