Can Dogs Feel Emotions?

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Atlas Outside

Can Dogs Feel Emotions?

I was scrolling through Facebook yesterday and I came across a meme. There was a dog in the picture with a tear running down their face. The meme was labeled, “If dogs feel emotions, leave some love.” Seeing this, I kind of laughed internally. I didn’t laugh at the fact that dogs feel emotions, I laughed because there was a meme even created saying this.

Can dogs feel emotions? Yes. Absolutely, 100%, yes. If you don’t have a dog, then you might be confused on this article at all. However, if you have a dog, then you’ll be able to relate.

You get home from work – your dog wags their tail.

You feel sad or depressed – your dog comes to you and puts their face against yours.

You feel sick or are vomiting – your dog comes into the bathroom and sits next to you.

You accidentally do something that hurts your dog – they whine and cry.

You pull out a treat for your dog – they start paw dancing, wagging and panting.

You’re in danger, or there’s another dog nearby – your dog drops their head and their hackles raise.

Each of these examples are emotions and feelings your dog is exhibiting. They’re showing you their emotions through body language. Just because a dog doesn’t speak English, doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings. They still talk, but we can’t understand barking as a language. Let’s go deeper.

When Dogs Wag Their Tails.

In the example above, I mentioned that when you get home from work, your dog wags their tail. They show other emotions and feelings besides just this. They might dance excitedly on their paws. They could jump around the room, or run around the house. Maybe they grab their favorite toy and bring it to you.

All of this is how they communicate with us. Tail wagging and paw dancing are excited emotions. They’re happy you’re home and they’re happy to see you. Grabbing their favorite toy is a sign of sharing with you. They want you to feel happy like they do, and so they want to share with you.

Dancing excitedly is showing you they’re genuinely happy that you’re home. They missed you, and want to be with you. They’re showing that by giving immediate love and attention to you.

Dogs feel happy to see you when they’ve missed you all day, or maybe it’s only been minutes. I know that I can walk down to my garage and rummage to find something. In the 20 minutes I’m down there, my dog Atlas is super happy to see me come back upstairs. She shows me this by wagging her tail and dancing on her paws. Panting and smiling; happy to see me.

When Dogs Are Concerned.

Atlas

I’m sure there’s been moments in your life when you’ve been sick at the toilet. Maybe you’re laid up on the couch, not feeling well. Dogs feel this and they get concerned for your well-being. During times that I’ve been sick at the toilet, my dogs will come into the bathroom and sit next to me. They will sometimes lay next to me, depending on how sick I feel. My dogs have even laid their head in my lap when I’m really, really sick.

They show concern for us when we’re ill, sad, or even depressed.

If you’ve cried or felt sad, I’m sure your dog has come to you and placed their nose close to your face. Maybe they lay next to you and simply touch you. Dogs not only sense emotions from us, but they also show their feelings to you as well.

Dogs can show concern in many ways. They might get close to you, or put their heads to yours. Some cats even do this. They might lick gently, to show concern if you’re ill or sad. They might simply lay close to you, especially when you’re sad or depressed.

Usually, their concern will come across as a subtle emotion. Ears in a relaxed manner, tails almost droopy, and their head might be lowered slightly. They won’t seem as perky as they normally are, but calm, relaxed.

They Feel Pain and Sadness.

Not long ago, I was trying to get back into my truck quickly and Atlas loves taking my spot when I get out. I was sitting in the passenger seat, and was trying very quickly to get back into the truck. I gently pushed Atlas over to the middle console and I thought she had moved enough for me to get in and shut the door. Unexpectedly, she started crying and whimpering. I wasn’t sure what happened, so I opened the door quickly. Her tail wasn’t completely out of the way of the door, and some of her fur had gotten stuck.

Thankfully, her tail wasn’t shut in the door, but she was crying nonetheless, because she was hurt. She knew that I had something to do with it, and looked back at me scared. I tried to soothe her and comfort her, but she was still wary of what had happened and regarded me sideways.

After several minutes passed of me comforting her, she finally crawled back onto my lap and licked my face. She was letting me know she was okay, but she had been hurt.

Dogs will let you know when they feel hurt and they will show sadness because of it. When a dog tucks their tail between their legs, they’re either scared, or sad. When their ears are droopy, it’s the same emotions they’re feeling.

I always make sure that her tail is completely clear of the door now, but that brought me extreme sadness that I had hurt her, even on accident. She forgave me, as dogs always do, because they love completely, but she had let me know her sadness in that moment.

Dogs Can Feel Fear Too.

I have a very protective dog, Atlas. There was a moment during a camping trip that she showed not just fear, but anger as well. Maybe anger isn’t the best emotion exactly, but she displayed feelings that I’ve never seen from her. A vehicle pulled up not far from our RV at 1:00am. My kids were asleep on their bed, and my husband and I were laying in bed in the room.

At seeing headlights coming down this dark road, not far from the street, Atlas became very alert and protective. She jumped down from the bed and stood in front of the RV door, nose in the air. She was sniffing to sense who had pulled up. She caught something she didn’t like, and she started exhibiting signs of fear and almost anger.

Her head dropped low, her legs spread out in a stance I had never seen. Her hackles raised all down her back, and her ears lay flat. She started growling insistently at the door.

My husband looked out the window, and she jumped up in front of him, on the chair and pushed him back from the window. I had never seen Atlas act like this before.

My husband looked down at her and pet her, but then went to the kitchen window instead to look out. Atlas jumped down from the chair, and stood in front of his legs, between the door and the window almost. It was as if she was warning him, but protecting him at the same time.

My husband grabbed our pistol we keep with us, opened the door to the RV, but kept the screen door closed and sat on the steps to see what was going to happen. Atlas didn’t move from his side the entire time. She was showing him that she was afraid for him, the kids and me.

Yes, Dogs Feel Emotions.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, after reading everything above, dogs do feel emotions. They might not be able to look at you and speak in clear English, “Dad, I’m happy right now”, but they say it with their body language. They wag tails, they dance, they smile, they cry, they show all these emotions to us every day. So to see a meme that even had to say, “Show love if you think dogs have feelings”, shouldn’t even exist.

As a dog owner, each of my dogs has different personalities. While they’re all three different, they all have feelings. Each of them show me how they feel through body language. They display feelings so well, that I always know exactly how they’re feeling each minute of the day.

If you have pets, then your pets have shown you their feelings somehow. Unless you have insects or reptiles. I’ve had reptiles, and they don’t show emotions like dogs and cats. Other animals are difficult to read as well, like hamsters and mice. They just run on their wheels; that’s about it.

My dogs though, they are very communicable when it comes to how they feel. They also don’t hold back from exhibiting these emotions either.

The gist of this article; pay attention to your dogs. They have feelings too.

10 thoughts on “Can Dogs Feel Emotions?

  1. I wish dogs could talk! They show emotion everyday but we don’t always know what exactly is going on. I really wish they could talk. My dog barks when its getting closer to dinner time and he wants to eat. So cute. Thanks for this great article on can dogs feel emotions. Is there a such thing as a dog psychologist?

    1. Alyse,

      I’m not sure on a dog psychologist, but I’ve heard of Dog Whisperers. I’m able to read dogs really easily, even other peoples dog’s, so maybe it’s just close observation to the body language they’re using? I’ve been around dogs for so long that it seems to come natural to me to be able to tell what they’re thinking and feeling. I will say though, that when I try to help my friends out with their dogs, it’s not taken too kindly, especially if I can tell their dog hates the food they buy, or the feeling of sadness that they can’t sit on the couch, etc.

      I usually just stay quiet when it comes to my friends dogs, that way there’s no animosity towards me for trying to help them out.

      Glad you enjoyed this article! Thanks for reading it!

      Katrina

  2. Dogs definitely do have emotions! For my dogs it’s always party time when I come home 😉 They wag their tails, jump, and dance around, and one of them sometimes grabs his toy and darts around with it like a foal 😉
    They also protect me from people they perceive as threats. One of my neighbors has been absolutely horrible to me for nearly two years; and my dogs were witnesses of her actions. They used to like her, and one of them even used to love her, but now they hate her. And Tommeeh, who really loved her before, now growls in anger when he just hears her voice. When she drives by my property, they fly to the fence and bark like they never do, it is not like their usual barking, but louder and more threatening. Luckily, she does not really have to come by often, since she does not live on my road. My dogs know what she did and they have not forgiven her …
    They are absolute sweethearts with visitors, though 🙂
    Tommeeh sometimes bears grudges, he especially did when he was a puppy, but he is better about it now. He used to do it for silly things, for example, when he wanted to come inside and I told him no, because I had just mopped the floor and it was still wet, he had to wait. Mr. Tommeeh did not like that and he let me know his feelings even after the floor was dry, lol. He has a lot of personality 😉
    Some of my friends and acquantances think I “exaggerate” because I believe dogs have feelings, but I think that they are missing out on something. I think that it is pretty obvious that dogs have feelings.

    1. Hi Christine,

      It’s definitely obvious dogs have feelings! I get what you mean by Tommeeh holding grudges! Atlas did that to me once. I left to go to the store and normally she comes with me everywhere I go, but I had to go WalMart, and I hate leaving her in the truck when I go there. I always feel like someone will try to break in to my truck and grab her cause she’s just too darn cute.
      Anyway, I came home and my son and future daughter-in-law came over and were at the house when I arrived. When I came upstairs, Atlas didn’t even greet me like she usually does. When I called her name, she literally snubbed her nose in the air and gave me her butt!

      My daughter-in-law sat down on the couch not far from me, and Atlas jumped up on her lap, gave me side eyes, and when I said, “Atlas, are you serious,” she looked away towards Ruth! Ruth was like, “What did you do to her? I’ve never seen her act this way!” I told her I just didn’t take her to WalMart with me. I tried calling her name again and every time, she would look away with her nose in the air!

      She even went so far as to glance back at me to see if I noticed her, and when I turned to look, she looked away really fast, and put her nose back in the air! This went on for a good 20 minutes until finally she got over it I guess and then gradually crawled up beside me and barely touched me. When I pet her, then she got all happy and started loving me again.

      Little turd! I swear, she’s definitely emotional.

      Thanks Christine, glad you liked this article!

      Katrina

  3. Your article is so true. I really appreciate your personal stories, I think for people who don’t owe a dog it’s much easier to understand now. I am a proud dog owner so I can relate in every single word.

  4. Anyone who claims a dog (or a cat or any vertebrate) doesn’t have feelings either is psychopath or doesn’t understand anything about biology in my books.

    So people claim that animals just react through learned behaviors that don’t present actual feelings but that’ absolutely not true. It’s the feelings that drive their behavior. A dog probably can’t contemplate their feeling like we (unfortunately) can, but they absolutely react to them.

    And I’m a firm believer that all animals have an identity, if I was religious I would claim they have a soul. Each pet I’ve ever had has been their own persona and by observing animals in the wild you can see there are vast differences between individuals. Some people claim we are just seeing things we want to see but they simply haven’t spend enough time with animals 😉

    1. Chuck,

      I’m a firm believer like you are, animals have feelings. I don’t understand how people can claim they don’t, especially when we see animals cry or cringe in fear from someone. My husband read this and said I need to post a video of a dog crying over a possum he thought he killed. I’ll have to try to find that video and post it on this article. He said the dog was shedding tears and crying, even sniffling.

      All of my dogs have shown me their personalities, their individual feelings they have. Every pet I’ve owned has been different, in both the emotions they feel at different times of the day, as well as how they act towards me. All of my pets love me, because I make sure they live long, happy, fulfilled lives, but they’re all different.

      Atlas just happens to be very different with her emotions. She exhibits more emotions than any dog I’ve had. She definitely exhibits jealousy, anger, and she’s even given me her version of the silent treatment before when she was upset I didn’t take her to the store with me. She even laughs during tickle time, and yes, she’s ticklish, which is crazy.

      I think she was a human in her past life if that’s even a possibility. She has a wide range of emotions and feelings and it’s just amazing to me every day that I get to spend her life with her. I treasure every day that I have since their life spans can be short, only 12 years. I’m hoping for more, but we can’t always know.

      Thanks for reading this Chuck! I’m glad you enjoyed this!

      Katrina

  5. I really enjoyed this post as I totally believe all animals feel emotion. My cat certainly does as he seems to sense if I’m worried or not feeling well. I had a similar incident with Alfie as you did with your dog and truck. He has a habit of sticking his paw through the gap in the freezer door when I’m taking stuff out! He waves his paw as if he’s trying to make me laugh and play a game! I have to be so careful and accidentally caught his paw once or twice. Just like your dog, he cried and looked at me with a shocked expression!

    1. Kathy,

      Cats are definitely emotional, just like dogs. I’ve had quite a few cats in my life, in fact, I used to always have a cat and a dog. They were always friends, sleeping together. I also prefer male cats to females. It just seems like male cats are so much more dog-like than females. Plus, my male cats would let me pick them up whenever and just hold them. Females only like attention when they want it, they’re so **itchy. My Mom loves females, but her cats are definitely prissy.
      I had a male cat named Spaz – he was the best cat I’ve ever had. I will admit. He actually fetched balls and hair ties. Whenever he would get on the counters, I’d yell his name and he’d look at me and wait for me to twitch. Once I twitched, he’d jump down and run, knowing I was coming for him. I even spanked him a couple times, not hard of course, but he was trained like my dogs. It was cute. I miss him.

      He passed from some disease before I could get him to a vet. It only took 3 days for some reason and he died in my arms. It was the most tragic thing I’ve ever had happen with my animals. He actually woke me up the morning he passed by sitting beside me on the bed and mewling at me. I opened my eyes to him staring at me and sat up. He crawled into my lap and I watched as he took his last breaths just looking at me. I cried for like 2 weeks.

      I keep trying to get another Spaz, but I don’t think I’ll ever find another one like him.

      Anyway, cats are emotional, just like dogs. Thanks for reading this!

      Katrina

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