Do you know what your dog can really feel? Here you can find out what feelings dogs are capable of and how to recognize them correctly.
Anyone who lives with a dog knows that their feelings can be very diverse. Nevertheless, caution is advised: We often tend to humanize our dogs and attribute feelings to them that they cannot feel at all. Every dog owner should definitely know what feelings their dog is really capable of and how you can recognize them.
This is what joy looks like
It’s easy to tell when a dog is happy. Many dogs jump for joy, bark excitedly, or wag their tails. Joy is one of the less complex feelings and can of course also be felt by our dogs.
Tail wagging does not always mean joy. An Italian study found that dogs are more likely to wag their tails to the right when happy. If the tail wags more to the left, this can indicate negative feelings.
Coming home, playing with your dog or taking it for a walk can be reason enough for your dog to be happy. But watch him closely: A high level of excitement does not always mean that the dog is happy, but can also be a reaction to stress.
Dogs know fear too
Fear ensures survival and is a very old basic feeling. Being afraid of something is normal for dogs too. The indefinite fear is distinguished from the object-related, concrete fear of something.
The feeling of strong fear can even make our dogs sick in the long run. But fears can also be alleviated with appropriate therapy. Individual experiences shape a dog’s fear. Dogs may also be afraid of something they don’t even know about.
If your dog has very strong fears and suffers from them, you should definitely ask a dog trainer for advice. Always take your dog’s fears seriously and deal with your frightened dog properly.
Anger and aggression
A very strong feeling is anger, which often arises suddenly. It can be triggered by a very uncomfortable situation for the dog, or an uncontrollable situation. Dogs with a lack of self-control become angry more easily.
Angry dogs also tend to behave aggressively. But never equate your dog’s aggression with that of a human! In addition, not only anger but also fear can lead to aggression. Find out why your dog is really aggressive. A professional dog trainer can help you with this.
Can dogs love?
It is not yet clear whether dogs can really feel love. But it is a fact that the bonding hormone oxytocin is released both in the dog’s body and in us humans when we cuddle with our dog, stroke it or even just look at it. Dogs show us through many gestures that we are important to them.
But there are also strong social bonds among dogs, especially between mother dogs and their offspring. These deep bonds are also noticeable when the dog feels visibly uncomfortable when the person or fellow animal that it likes very much is not there.
When the dog mourns
It is now assumed that dogs also really mourn when a loved one dies or the caregiver has been absent for a long time. When a dog is feeling sad, it often behaves like this:
- The dog no longer wants to play and seems less happy overall.
- The dog seeks closeness to its human and does not want to be alone.
- The dog eats more slowly, less or nothing at all.
- The dog is restless and sleeps less well.
- The dog withdraws more often.
- The dog’s usual behavior changes.
These signs can also indicate a disease. Be sure to check with a veterinarian to determine the actual cause of this behavior.
Feelings of guilt are unlikely
We humans have feelings of guilt when we violate moral concepts or social rules. These rules do not exist in dogs, which is why researchers have so far assumed that they cannot distinguish between good and bad. So dogs can’t feel guilty.
Nevertheless, many dog owners are certain: if the dog has broken something and is caught doing so, it will shrink, look guilty and seem to have a really bad conscience.
A study by Alexandra Horowitz from Barnard College in New York showed that dog owners influence this behavior enormously. Dogs perceive the annoyance of their owner and behave accordingly submissively. If they know that there is no trouble, they behave completely neutrally towards their human.
Jealousy affects dogs too
Scientists have found that dogs actually behave jealously. In an experiment at the University of San Diego, the test dogs reacted jealously when their owners interacted with a stuffed dog instead of them. Almost 80 percent of the dogs pushed their human, a quarter of them even reacted aggressively and snapped at the stuffed dog.
An Australian study went even further: it showed that dogs behave jealously even when they imagine their owner petting another dog.
Luck and happiness
We also share feelings of happiness and contentment with our dogs. You can make sure that your dog feels good: if it has sufficient contact with social partners, variety in everyday life, sufficient exercise, physical contact, and of course food, it will be happy.
However, a good dog owner knows that rest breaks, opportunities to retreat, and fair treatment are just as important for a dog’s happiness. Even if the emotional world of humans and dogs seems to be very similar, you should always remember: Your dog perceives its surroundings differently and feels differently. Pay attention to which feelings he can really feel and which are only typical for us humans.