Can Dogs Feel “Human” Emotions?

Posted By Roger Wellington the Traveling Yorkie on Sep 1, 2020 | 0 comments


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

Can Dogs Feel Human Emotions?

This post hopes to change the views of those who perceive dogs as “just” dogs, which often paves the way for poor treatment, neglect, abuse, and/or cruelty. Dogs may not be humans, but they indisputably possess the ability to suffer just like humans. 

Introducing a new baby or child to your dog

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.  

Why it’s OK to Call Your Dog “Baby”

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!

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Can Dogs Feel Human Emotions?

However, emotional ranges may be different between dog feelings and human feelings; for instance, dogs don’t necessarily feel the more complex human emotions like pride, shame, or guilt. Although many dog parents assert that their dogs have a “guilty” look on their faces after doing something “wrong,” they have inevitably confused guilt with FEAR. Dogs are merely associating the particular scene with their human’s behavior or reaction from the past. Essentially, they are afraid of what will happen to them, not necessarily feel “guilty” for what they did. Therefore, it’s imperative to use only positive reinforcement to train your dog and/or correct behaviors that you find “undesirable.” Besides considered abusive and outdated, negative reinforcement (such as yelling and hitting) only generates fear and confusion in your dog. 

How dogs can TRAIN humans

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. 

What to Teach Children about ANIMALS

Learn to read your dog’s body language to understand his or her emotions!

do dogs have feelings like humans

*Note – lists are not all inclusive

Happy dog

  1. Relaxed body
  2. Relaxed eyelids and gaze
  3. Relaxed mouth (loosely closed or slightly open)
  4. Upright tail (exemplifies confidence)
  5. Wagging tail (bear in mind that it doesn’t always mean that they’re happy – it just means they’re excited)
  6. Sleeping on back with paws up (worry-free as this is their most vulnerable position)

Fearful dog 

  1. Flattened ears
  2. Stiff tail (between hind legs) or lowered tail
  3. Crouching down (in fear)
  4. Licking lips (with no food around)

Stressed or tense dog

  1. Pacing around
  2. Shaking (when it’s not cold)
  3. Whining
  4. Barking
  5. Yawning
  6. Drooling
  7. Licking lips (with no food around)

Sad or depressed dog

  1. Sleeping more than usual
  2. Sad eyes 
  3. Loss of interest in food and in general 
  4. Paw licking
  5. Withdrawal or in hiding
  6. Dropping ears (farther back)

Mad or upset dog

  1. Flattened ears 
  2. Turns back on you 
  3. Walks away from you
  4. Yawning
  5. Licking lips (with no food around) 
  6. Growling
  7. Showing teeth
  8. No eye contact
  9. Stiff body

How to Potty Train Your Dog WITHOUT a Crate

So, can dogs feel human emotions? ARF, ARF – absolutely, YES! Every dog is a unique individual WITH his or her own feelings. With that said (oops, I mean BARKED), I sincerely hope you give your dog the BEST life ever. 🙂 

 

Find out if dogs REALLY love their crates here. Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube Channel: Wet Nose Escapades by Roger Wellington.

*Although this post is written specifically for dogs, some of the content can also apply to cats. Cats are family too!

 

Markin’ it up,

Roger Wellington a.k.a. The Doob

Can Dogs Feel Human Emotions?

 

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do dogs have feelings like humans

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