Comfort for Dogs: Dogs Read Our Emotions to Help Us Feel Better

    Do our dogs know how we feel?

(Photo: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Recently I became audibly and visibly upset about something that happened in my personal life in front of my two dogs, Hank and Charlie. As I sat on the floor crying, Hank sat down next to me and licked my face. Charlie put his head in my lap and looked at me as if he was upset too.

At first I didn’t think too much about it as I patted each one on the head, but then it dawned on me: I was being comforted by my dogs.

That’s when they knew there was something wrong with me. They had to make sure I knew they cared about me.

What does science say about dogs that read emotions?

woman petting dog and looking out window

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

There have been many studies of our dogs’ emotions, especially their reactions to sadness and tears.

In studies published in the journal Animal Cognition, researchers found that dogs were more likely to approach a person who was crying than someone who was singing or talking. The dogs became more submissive to the howling person.

In the case of my dogs, once I stopped howling and regained control of my emotions, they were again wrestling and chasing squirrels in the backyard.

It’s unclear whether dogs are empathetic to human emotions or simply able to determine our moods by our body language. But one thing’s for sure: they know there’s something else out there.

Dogs feel many of the same things we feel

man lying with dog on bed

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Studies have shown that dogs, while not identical in complexity, share the hormones and undergo the same chemical changes as humans do during emotional states.

“When I’m sick, he doesn’t leave my side when I’m in bed,” said dog parent Tam Rockett. “Usually he gets up and inspects the slightest noise to make sure everything is okay, but when I’m sick he doesn’t care.”

For most of us, we don’t care what researchers study or learn about our dogs. It is not important for us to know whether they can feel anger over fear or happiness over sadness.

All we care about is the sheer joy we get from having our dogs comfort us when we are down.

Do your dogs comfort you when you’re feeling down? Do you think they can read your emotions? Let us know in the comments below!

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