Dogs have some amazing natural abilities. Sometimes it seems like they can read minds. They are such intuitive animals and they respond to humans in ways that are so unique and special. The friendship between humans and dogs is unlike any other partnership.
Dogs seem to sense very specific things about people. When we are happy, our dogs appear to mirror that happiness. How do our dogs know when we are happy? How do they know to comfort us when we are sad? What else can a dog sense? Can dogs sense anger?
Signs that Your Dog is Sensing Anger
Dogs read facial expressions, sounds, body language, and smells in order to deduce a person's mood. There are different signs that dogs display depending on their response to different people and moods.
For example, when you are very sad, your dog will notice and respond accordingly. You'll notice that your dog will get calmer and walk in a non-threatening way towards you. When you need some extra comfort, your dog will likely notice and lean into you for cuddles.
Similarly, dogs can tell when people are angry. They rely heavily on their sense of smell for this task. When a person is sweating, their adrenal glands are more productive. This rise in adrenaline is something that dogs can smell! They can smell an increased sweat production. Dogs also pay attention to the posture, facial expressions, and muscle tensions of humans.
When a human is angry, he might raise his shoulder, scour his face, and stop making eye contact. This will alert the dog that something might be wrong. Different dogs react differently according to their breed and personality.
Some dogs will get scared when they notice someone is angry. They will run behind their owner for protection. Other dogs will get very protective and may start barking or growling at the angry person. A dog who gets angry at an angry person may show is teeth and move towards the ground in a threatening way.
The History of Dogs Sensing Moods
Dogs evolved from wolves thousands and thousands of years ago. These dogs were the first animal to be domesticated by humans. The wolves that were more friendly and accommodating to humans were preferred. Those wolves were given more food and shelter and continued to be bred.
With each generation of pups, wolves began looking more like the dogs we know and love today. Because of the many different needs that humans had, different dogs began to be bred for different purposes. Some dogs were hunting dogs, some dogs were guard dogs, and some dogs were just plain cute.
Dogs are such intuitive animals because of the strategic way they have been bred. Dogs are so good at communication with humans because of their years of observation and love. Humans have distinct body language that depicts their mood. Dogs have been naturally trained at picking up on these moods by being experts in observation.
Dogs can read body language and facial expressions expertly well. They pay attention to the tone of voice when their humans are communicating with them. Dogs use their observations to help the humans they know and love.
The Science of Dogs Reading Moods
Dogs have amazing ways that they depict the tone of voice of their humans. They have a space in their brain dedicated to understanding these tones. Dogs use this same part of the brain to decipher each other's tones. They can tell what mood another dog is in based on the sound of their bark!
In research studies, dogs have been shown to recognize when people are sad, happy, and angry. They were shown pictures of faces, and then they heard a tone of voice. When the tone of voice matched the mood that the face depicted, their brain lit up more than when the tone did not match the picture.
Training a Dog to Read Moods
Dogs are already pretty good at picking up on your mood. As they grow up around humans, they quickly pick up on the connection between tone of voice and facial expressions. Dogs gaze at their humans. This helps them take in more information and confirms their theories about our current mood.
Dogs can be trained to be even better at detecting moods. Most dogs who are especially skilled at reading moods are service dogs. Service dogs provide specific services to those who need them. These dogs are specifically trained to pick up on body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. They can even detect heart rate. So, if a person looks upset and their heart rate changes, the dog can react accordingly and predict the situation.
Have no fear, it is possible to increase your dog's ability to pick up on social cues depending on each situation they are in. The more people that your dog sees, the more your dog will know. Humans have a general way that they express mood. However, some humans express mood differently than others.
By having your dog spend time with many people in many different settings, they will get more comfortable and will have more information to pull from when navigating the world.
Training your dog to be as perceptive as a service dog is possible. This is great for people who want to train their own dog to be more supportive of their needs. In order to have the most success, it is best to start when the dog is young - around 6 months old. The process happens slowly, with consistent practice and positive reinforcement.
First, your dog needs to get good off leash. Focus on the way your dog behaves when you take him off the leash in dog parks and at restaurants. Start to get your dog comfortable going on walks and following your commands while he is off leash.
When your dog responds to your social cues in the appropriate way, give him praise with a happy tone of voice and a smile on your face with open body language.
Your dog will pick up on new things through training, and just through spending more time with you and getting to know you in new ways.
By a Corgi lover Simone DeAngelis
Published: 03/02/2018, edited: 04/06/2020