Do dogs feel human emotions?

A study in a 2018 issue of the journal Learning & Behavior found that dogs respond to human faces that express six basic emotions— anger, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise, and disgust—with changes in their gaze and heart rate.

Dogs have a remarkable ability to sense our emotions. Science supports the idea that some people know us better than we know ourselves.

They can tell when we are becoming more stressed out by the slightest rise in blood pressure, and they can tell whether we are happy or angry by the slightest change in our facial expression. Even by simply looking into our eyes, our dogs have the power to affect our emotions.

How do they read our emotions, and how does this affect the special relationship we have with our canine friends?

WOOF, can dogs feel human emotions? The short answer is YES, dogs CAN feel human emotions! But keep sniffing to find out more…

This article aims to alter people’s perceptions of dogs as “just” dogs, which frequently encourages neglect, abuse, and/or cruelty toward them. Dogs may not be people, but they unquestionably have the ability to feel pain.

As descendants of wolves, dogs have come a long way since they were first domesticated some 15,000-40,000 years ago. Over these thousands of years of social interaction with humans, dogs not only learned human emotions and the human language but also became the most loyal beings (to humans) on Earth. Even though dogs are known to have roughly the same mind as a 2-2 ½-year-old, dogs are extremely intelligent animals; seriously, when was the last time you saw a toddler or child work with cops at a crime scene? My guess is never. Also, dogs can sense if you’re happy, sad, hurt, afraid, or stressed. Heck, dogs can even detect your mood without hearing your voice and express empathy. Whenever my humans are sad or stressed, I comfort them by simply going near them. If you don’t already know, petting a dog immediately reduces stress (the stress hormone cortisol decreases as a result of the touch) and releases the “feel good” hormones such as serotonin.

If you’re a dog (or animal) lover, you’ve probably long recognized that dogs CAN also feel the same emotions as humans. And, you’re so right! In fact, dogs possess ALL the same brain structures that produce emotions in humans. They even possess the same hormones and experience the same chemical changes as humans during emotional states. Yet, it’s no surprise that dogs possess the same “love” hormone oxytocin, which explains why dogs can feel love and affection for humans, other dogs, and even other animals (e.g. cat). Dogs are capable of feeling all basic human emotions, such as happiness, love, excitement, anticipation, fear, pain, suffering, anxiety, grief, sadness, confusion, anger, frustration, jealousy, loneliness, relaxation, and so on. Yep, I get jealous whenever my humans give their attention to other dogs. As a rescue dog who was surrendered twice, I suffer from separation anxiety and worry as soon as I know my humans are preparing to leave the house without me. And, as soon as I hear the keys that signal their return, I feel immense excitement and joy – I jump up, wag my tail, and smile (yes, dogs DO smile :)) like I haven’t seen them in years!

Dogs may not necessarily experience more complex human emotions like pride, shame, or guilt. Dog emotional ranges may also differ from human emotional ranges in other ways. Although many dog owners claim that their dogs display a “guilty” expression after acting “wrongly,” they have inadvertently confused guilt with FEAR. Dogs are merely drawing parallels between the current scene and past actions or reactions by their owners. In essence, they don’t necessarily feel “guilty” for what they did; rather, they are afraid of what will happen to them. Therefore, it’s crucial to train your dog only with positive reinforcement and/or stop any “unwanted” behaviors. Negative reinforcement (such as yelling and hitting) is not only outdated and considered abusive, but it also causes your dog to become fearful and confused.

So, when I hear people say, “it’s just a dog” or “dogs aren’t humans,” I feel disheartened that dogs are still regarded as solely “property” after such a long history of human companionship. After thousands of years of domestication, dogs have evolved as a species that cannot survive without humans. Of course, you can find countless feral or street dogs roaming around parts of Latin America and Asia as civilians, but they still heavily rely on human scraps for survival. The wishful little Yorkie ME is optimistic that this world will become more progressive in animal rights and welfare. Currently, over 30 countries have reclassified dogs (and other animals) as “sentient beings” (unfortunately, the U.S. isn’t one of them…yet). When dogs (and cats) are only considered “property” (like a car or table) instead of sentient beings, legal protections are limited. With an upright tail, I am hopeful that stricter animal protection laws will follow worldwide as more people recognize animal sentience.

Dogs Sense Our Emotions By:

Author and professor emeritus, Albert Mehrabian discovered that 93% of human communication is non-verbal. Both humans and dogs communicate through vocalization, but we also tend to trust what we see above what we hear.

Dogs avoid stiff, intimidating puppies when meeting new canines in the park in favor of playful, carefree playmates. When it comes to detecting our emotions, they behave similarly. They only need to look at our posture, gait, and mannerisms to know exactly how we are feeling.

Dogs are so good at reading our body language they beat out wolves, chimps and three-year-old children in social cognition experiments. Even nine-week-old puppies that have never lived as family pets scored better, suggesting this skill is evolutionary.

Humans and primates have a social trait known as “emotional contagion.” It’s why we yawn when a friend yawns, and why we tend to return the smile of a passing stranger. Matching the emotions and physical expressions of our fellow humans demonstrates our high capacity for empathy.

Similarly, dogs mimic each other in social situations. Dogs mimic each other’s facial expressions while interacting in the park, according to research by Italian researcher Elisabetta Palagi and her team. This is especially true of dogs that they are already familiar with.

According to the authors, emotional contagion between humans and dogs also exists. They raise their eyebrows when our eyes meet, demonstrating that they are participating in the conversation. A dog’s parent frequently yawns while they are doing so.

In addition to simply mirroring our looks, there is strong evidence that dogs can recognize and understand the difference between happy and angry facial expressions in humans.

“We used Portuguese to train British dogs so they wouldn’t be accustomed to or familiar with any words.” Therefore, Natalia De Souza Albuquerque, a PhD candidate in experimental psychology, said, “We wanted to see if the dogs could assess the emotional content of the human voices and whether they would actually discriminate the emotional information within them.”


Do dogs understand when you cry?

Previous studies have demonstrated that when people cry, their dogs also experience distress. According to a recent study, dogs not only become distressed when they see their owners in distress but also attempt to provide comfort. The results were released in the journal Learning and Behavior today, July 24.

Do dogs have feelings for their owners?

According to scientific evidence, a portion of the canine brain is connected to positive emotions, and dogs do feel love for their human companions.

Can my dog feel my sadness?

On that note, research indicates that dogs can detect depression, and many of them will even react affectionately to their owners in an effort to lift their spirits. Dogs pay attention to our actions in the same way that we do to their behavior in order to gauge our current “energy”

Do dogs know when their owner is sad?

According to studies, dogs are susceptible to emotional contagion, which is the act of reacting to another person’s emotions without knowing what they are, Even though they may not understand how you feel, your dog can sense when you are upset and comfort you.