No matter how perfect our dogs are, at some point, they're going to get into trouble. And as much as we love them, sometimes we just can't help getting mad at them. But can they actually tell that we're mad at them? Sure, they don't like that we're yelling, but do they actually know that we're upset?
Well, according to science, the answer is actually yes! Depending on the behaviors we exhibit when we're mad, dogs will recognize them and react differently. So just make sure you don't stay mad for too long, and make sure your dog understands not to misbehave again!
Signs Your Dog Knows You're Mad
Puppy-dog eyes: they know we love them because we give them treats when they make that face! Doggos will give us the look they know melts our hearts in the hope of making us less mad.
Avoiding eye contact: oftentimes when we're mad at our dogs, we're yelling at them. They know we're the alpha - we're bigger than them, louder than them, and we eat whenever we want! So when we're hanging over them and using our loud voice, they're going to exhibit submissive behavior, like avoiding eye contact, tails tucked between their legs, ears flat against their head, or maybe even rolling over on their bellies.
Avoiding looking at what they did: similarly they may avoid looking at the mess they made! We've all seen videos of those "bad dogs" who got into treats they weren't supposed to that seems like they're pretending what they did didn't happen. This is another submissive type of behavior; your pet thinks that if you don't see what they did, then you'll stop being mad and start giving them some love again!
Whimpering or crying: a sad or afraid dog will also exhibit some signs of whimpering or crying to show their discomfort. They may respond to your loud noises (yelling, etc.) with their own sounds!
- Averting eyes
- Tail tucking
- Stomach flip
- Ears back
- Whale eye
- Urine sprinkling
- Accidents or peeing after yelling
- Shaking or trembling
- Pretending they don't see what they did wrong
- Siding up to you in the hopes you'll be less mad
- Puppy-dog eyes
- Running or hiding from you
The History of Dogs and Our Emotions
Because they've been around humans for almost as long as we've been around, they've learned to associate certain facial expressions and voice patterns with different emotions. History really has turned our dogs into man's (or woman's!) best friend - they really can tell when we're mad, especially when it's at them!
The Science Behind Dogs Sensing We're Mad at Them
A study in Finland showed that "dogs can pinpoint threatening facial expressions in humans, and the way they look at those angry faces is quite different from how they look at neutral or pleasant faces."
Another study of 11 dogs showed similar results. "A group of researchers trained a group of 11 dogs to differentiate between angry and happy human faces." When they were shown part of a human's face in various emotional states, and dogs that recognized happy faces were given treats.
They were very quickly able to recognize and respond to that training/command, meaning that they were able to tell the difference between various emotions. "The researchers are confident that based on their results, and results of other, less conclusive attempts, some dogs are able to differentiate between human expressions."
Training Your Dog to Read Your Emotions
However, if you want to do more, you can try to give your dog a treat every time you're laughing or smiling. Like in the study, your dog may be able to learn quickly that smiles mean good things, while frowns or yelling mean bad things.
There's also training that you can do to prevent your dog from doing bad things. Give them treats when they're behaving appropriately, and reprimand them when they're behaving badly. If they keep getting into the trash, chewing up a specific pillow, or messing with your shoes, train your dog to stay away from those things. Give them treats when they're away, and scold them (calmly and reasonably!) when they're near what you don't want them to be near. Eventually, they'll get it!
How to React When Your Dog Misbehaves:
Do Not Respond Physically: DO NOT HIT YOUR DOG! These canines love us with all of their little hearts and trust us with their lives. Don't jeopardize that or take advantage of it through physical violence!
Try to remain patient: Your dog, as perfect as they are, can't understand English. So there's no wonder that they may not really get why you're mad! Take a few deep breaths,
Reward good behavior: You can't just scold a dog for doing something bad - dogs need positive reinforcement too. If they know what you like them to do, they may start to avoid the naughty behaviors!
Remove the tempting objects: If your dog likes to get into the trash, get a trashcan with a lid or put your trash away. If your dog likes to chew on your shoes, close your closet door. The less temptation for your dog, the less trouble they'll get into, and the less mad you'll be!