People have had a close bond with domesticated dogs for centuries. In his 1764 Dictionnaire philosophique, Voltaire observed: “It seems that nature has given the dog to man for his defence and for his pleasure. Of all the animals it is the most faithful: it is the best friend man can have.”Because most of us routinely read emotions in our dogs wagging tail means happy, cringing means afraid, and so forth it may be difficult to believe that the existence of real emotions in dogs was, and in some places still is, a point of scientific controversy. In the distant past, it was presumed that dogs had rich mental lives with feelings much like those of humans.
Anyone that has ever owned a dog will tell you, they have emotions. While they can't verbalize what emotion they are feeling, they can still communicate how they are feeling through their behavior and body language Certain behaviors are correlated with being happy, relaxed, scared, stressed, and even painful. By understanding your dog's body language you can better understand your dog's emotional state.
The Emotions that Dogs Actually Experience
The important fact is that we know that the assortment of emotions available to the dog will not exceed that which is available to a human who is two to two-and-a-half years old. This means that a dog will have all of the basic emotions: joy, fear, anger, disgust, and, yes, love, but the dog does not experience the more complex emotions like guilt, pride, and shame.
Do dogs have feelings for their owners?
Though they can't put their love into words, dogs have an unexpectedly large repertoire of ways to show they care.From subtle body language to over-the-top displays of affection, your pooch is probably showering you with devotion in plenty of surprising ways. It's not a surprise that pets can learn their own names, but many dogs will also respond to the names of their owners. Yes, your dog knows how much you love him! Dogs and humans have a very special relationship, where dogs have actually hijacked the human oxytocin bonding pathway that is normally reserved for our babies. When you stare at your dog, both your oxytocin levels go up, the same as when you pet them and play with them. It makes you both feel good and reinforces your bonding. Does your dog ever stare at you for no reason? They are just "hugging you" with their eyes.
How can you know what your dog is feeling?
Tail wagging seems like an obvious body language signal. If a dog’s tail is wagging, the dog is happy, right? Wrong. People misinterpret this signal all the time. All a wagging tail means is that the dog is emotionally aroused. It could be excitement, but it could be frustration or worse. To interpret the dog’s emotions and intentions, look at the speed and direction of the wag as well as the position of the tail.Basically, the faster the wag, the more aroused the dog. Think about those long, slow, side-to-side tail sweeps your dog makes when greeting you — the type that wag the dog’s whole body. That’s a relaxed dog. A faster twitch-like wag indicates a higher level of arousal and possibly in a negative way. Think of a guard dog on alert.
When a dog’s hackles are raised, it means the hair along their back is standing up. Technically called piloerection, the fur can fluff up across the shoulders or down the back and all the way to the tail. This is a definite sign that the dog is aroused, but not necessarily in a negative way. The dog might be upset or stressed but could also be excited or intensely interested in something. It’s often an involuntary reaction, like goosebumps in people.
A dog’s weight distribution can tell a lot about mood and intention. Consider a cowering dog that is hunched toward the ground. That’s a sign of fear or stress. The dog may be trying to get away from something and the posture makes the dog appear smaller. In other words, it says, “I mean no harm.” The extreme of this posture is a dog that rolls onto their back exposing the belly. This may look like a dog soliciting a belly rub, and in a relaxed dog, it often is. But it can actually be a sign of considerable stress and anxiety. The dog may even urinate a little in appeasement.
The opposite posture is a dog with his or her weight shifted forward. This dog is trying to get closer to something. This might simply indicate the dog’s interest. But it could also indicate offensive intentions, particularly paired with other aggressive body language cues like a twitching tail held high. In this case, the dog is trying to appear larger.
The most confusing facial expression is smiling. Yes, some dogs smile, and if you’re not familiar with the expression it can look terrifying. Usually, when dogs bare their teeth, it serves as a warning, as if they’re saying, “Look at my weapons.” It’s hard to mistake the aggressive intention of a snarl, especially when it’s paired with a menacing growl. The corners of the dog’s lips form the shape of a C and the front teeth are fully displayed.Smiling dogs also display their front teeth, but the meaning is the complete opposite. Also known as a submissive grin, this expression is often found on a happy dog with a loose and wiggly posture. The dog’s overall attitude says, “Hello, I come in peace.”
iPettie: We bring you an amazing life with your pet.
*We hope to give you better ideas for your pet, but this information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian. If your pet feels bad, please take it to the veterinarian in time.