Dog's emotional life

Have you ever wondered which are the emotions your dog can actually feel?

Research done by Finnish scientists shows that dogs have all the brain structures that produce emotions in humans and possess the same hormones responsible for feelings of love and affection as we do.

They also adjust their behaviour according to the emotional situation, have emotional disorders, and even (at least somewhat) exhibit empathy!

What emotions can dogs feel ?

That being said, it is still wrong to assume the emotional ranges of dogs and humans are the same. Although the full extent of dog emotions remains unknown, most of the researchers agree that dogs do not exceed the emotional level of a two-and-a-half year old child. That means your dog is able to feel  all of the basic emotions: joy, fear, anger, disgust and love (lots of it ☺).

We’re pretty sure that dogs can also feel emotions like frustration, anxiety, relaxation, and anticipation. The beforementioned lines up pretty well with the  Eight Core Emotions, which humans experience as well.

However, based on current research it seems that dogs most likely don’t have those more complex emotions that we exhibit, like guilt, pride and shame. So, even though it might seem that your dog is feeling guilty about destroying your favourite shoe – head lowered, ears swept back and a hunched posture, he is most likely just anxious because he expects you to get angry about it.

Research also showed that dog’s emotional range develops and changes with age, the same way it does with people.  Dogs go through their developmental stages much more quickly though, and reach their full range of emotions by the time they are four to six months of age, while humans take about 5 years.

“Dog’s emotional range develops and changes with age, the same way it does with people”

Can dogs recognize emotion ?

According to research by Brazilian and American universities dogs can discriminate between positive and negative emotions from both humans and dogs. That allows them to evaluate their social intentions and motivations.

Therefore, they are able to respond appropriately to human and dog facial expressions and vocalizations of emotion. That also means if you yell at them to stop doing something but keep a happy or neutral face expression (and vice versa) they are less likely to obey than when facial and vocal expression are in accordance.

How do your emotions affect your pet ?

Living alongside humans for some 30,000 years way made dogs develop the ability to recognize their owners’ needs and emotions. A dog’s nose is between 10 000 to 100 000 more sensitive than a human’s, so they can easily detect stress chemicals our bodies emit when we are upset. Dogs and cats are also prone to soaking up negative emotions from their owners or their family members. For that reason, frequent arguments within the household are especially stressful for animals, who may react with irritability or fear or even aggressiveness, destructiveness, or extreme restlessness. The stress can also contribute to irritated skin, ears, and bladder, therefore keep in mind happy owner-happy dog is more than just a saying!