If you already own a dog in your life, you know they experience a wide range of emotions. Especially when they’re wagging their tail with a perpetually happy smile, or when they feel ashamed after you scold them for rummaging the garbage. Even Science now believes that dogs have emotions and feelings, even if the scientific community cannot directly measure what your dog might be experiencing.
Do Dogs Have Feelings?
It turns out that devoted owners could be right about their dogs having feelings and emotions all along. Researchers have trained dogs to sit still in MRI scanners to examine whether they react to voices in the same way humans do. The findings showed that humans and dogs have a strikingly similar mechanism to process emotional information.
Dogs certainly experience many feelings, most of which we can see them displaying through their whimsical expression, laughter, and goofy looks. So, what emotions can dogs feel?
According to experts and their research, here are some of the feelings and emotions that dogs have.
Love and Attachment In Dogs
You might have plenty of stories proving your dog’s ability to love. You are not alone. A study has found that a specific hormone, namely oxytocin, is responsible for the emotional bond between dogs and humans. It suggests that oxytocin, informally known as the ‘love or attachment’ hormone produced by both species, increases the affection between the two and increases with increased interactions.
For instance, when you gaze lovingly at your pup’s eyes for a particular time, their level of oxytocin rises. So, does yours. This suggests that oxytocin plays a crucial role in bonding you with your dog.
Jodi Cassel, Dog Trainer and Behavior Consultant, says, “You can do something called a consent test to confirm your dog’s need for attachment and interaction” to Bustle. “When your dog approaches near you, try petting them for a while and then pause to observe their behavior. If they are relaxed and lean on you for more, it is a good sign that your dog is enjoying and wants more of their cuddling time.”
Generosity in Dogs
Yes, your read that right. Dogs understand generosity. In fact, a study from 2017 showed that dogs could distinguish between a human’s selfish and generous behaviors. Here, the researchers leashed dogs with two strangers and a beggar in a room. Both the strangers were given a bowl of sausages and cereal. When the beggar entered the place to ask for food from the strangers, one of them exerted rude and loud behaviors and refused to oblige to the request. While the other one politely gave food. After the observation, the dogs were unleashed to let them choose between the two strangers. Over two-thirds of the dog went right up to the polite stranger to ask for food.
This finding suggests that dogs can differentiate between people’s selfish and generous behaviors and act accordingly.
Fear and Frustration in Dogs
You might have often noticed your dog cowering their tail firmly between their legs, holding their ears back, and even snarling, snapping, urinating when they’re afraid. This behavior is typical in all dogs since fear is one of the most ancient emotions found in animals.
Frustration is another common emotion that dogs can feel just like humans. Your pup might bark, whine, and pace here and there when they are frustrated.
Anxiety in Dogs
It is sad, but dogs can indeed experience anxiety, the unpleasant cousin of fear and frustration. Canines who have had a traumatic past or disturbing childhood are prone to be anxious. Such anxious dogs are restless and likely to pant more often- their eyes are wide with dilated pupils, and some are also known to fall asleep in weird times to cope with their nervousness.
Although brain activity in dogs has not fully proved canine anxiety, there is anecdotal evidence suggesting that dogs suffer from anxiety, especially separation anxiety.
Happiness and Joy in Dogs
Do dogs have feelings of joy? Can dogs feel happy? Of course, and admit it, this emotion is your favorite one to see in your furry bud. When you arrive home after a long day, and your pup starts to jump around, wagging their tail, trying to hug you, prancing and pouncing with their goofy looks – that’s an extremely happy dog right there in front of you.
Sadness and Depression in Dogs
Dogs can feel sad when their needs aren’t met or fulfilled. They also show emotions of grief when they’re left alone or when they go through an emotional trauma due to the loss of a friend. Similarly, physical discomfort resulting from illnesses and injuries can also make your pup feel sorrow.
Read our article “Do Dogs Cry?” to find out more about why dogs feel sad and how they express sadness.
Experts also suggest that dogs get occasional bouts of depression, just like humans. The reasons for a dog’s depressed state is similar to when they feel sad. Such causes include physical illnesses, fear and phobias, loss of their owner/companion, and abuse.
To know more about why dogs feel depressed and how to deal with one, click here.
Empathy in Dogs
A 2012 study shows that dogs can feel empathy when they see crying people, regardless of whether they are their owners or strangers. Dr. Deborah Custance and Jennifer Mayer, faculties at the Department of Psychology in the University of London, researched whether dogs could identify emotional stress in humans. 18 dogs of different ages and breeds were the participants in the procedure conducted. These dogs were conditioned in an environment where both the owners and strangers either hummed or cried. Most dogs approached and touched crying people as opposed to humming.
Hence, the findings suggest that dogs can respond to a person’s emotions and can show empathetic-like behaviors.
Guilt and Shame in Dogs
Do dogs feel guilt? Picture this – you come home to a massive mess of garbage all over the kitchen floor, scattered pillows in the bedroom, and paint all over your favorite canvas. You immediately know the culprit- your little pooch who is now cowering in the corner of a room. You try to get your frustration out by scolding them, but they won’t make eye contact. Instead, they lower their heads and sit still. That’s your ashamed dog trying to process their misdeeds.
Jealousy and Envy in Dogs
When it comes to envy in dogs, they might not be jealous like humans, but they do show jealous-like behaviors. Jealousy in dogs is basically like possessiveness in humans.
For instance, Nick Jones, an experienced Dog Behaviorist, likes to call it ‘resource guarding’. It refers to the desire to keep something to oneself. For example, your pup might grumble or bark at someone who is trying to snatch away their favorite toys. Jones further suggests that dogs perceive their toys, bones, or even their owner at times as prized possessions, which they do not like to share with anyone.
Anticipation and Surprise in Dogs
Take your dog on a walk every evening for a couple of days, and they will be excitedly waiting for you every other day to take them out. The most heaps of anticipation you can see in your dog is when their playtime is near. You might notice your pup pouncing and prancing once they’re outdoors for a game of fetch. So, anticipation is a common emotion that you can find in dogs.
Similar to other emotions like joy and anticipation, you can also easily spot a surprised dog. Sometimes when you show them a trick to challenge their wit, dogs can display an astonished reaction accompanied by widened eyes and twitched ears.
Do Dogs Get Their Feelings Hurt?
Dog owners know that dogs get upset when you scold them, regardless of whether you’re joking or not. Dogs tend to exhibit certain behaviors when you’ve hurt their feelings. Yes, dogs get hurt, but they are known to be upset more on your tone of voice than the actual words. For instance, even if you’re not using bad languages to teach something to your dog, but your voice tone is loud, your pup might mistake your commands for scolding. So, you might want to lower your voice while training or during playtime to avoid hurting their feelings.
Do Dogs Have Feelings for Their Owners?
You know your dog loves you when they bring you their favorite toys to play with. You also know that you’re their beloved companion when they’re incredibly joyous to see you after your long office hours. Dogs do have feelings for their owners, whether they are love or attachment, happiness, joy, or even possessiveness.
Dogs certainly have feelings, as well as a complex emotional state that we’re only starting to uncover. They have emotions ranging from happiness, sadness, jealousy and envy, and display such feelings in various ways. Knowing what to look for and identifying their behavioral cues will undoubtedly help you understand what is going on in their furry little heads.
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