Can Dogs Sense Human Emotions?


This is an interesting question and many curious dog owners may wonder whether dogs are able to pick up on human emotional states. Can dogs sense human emotions? Read our Holidays4Dogs article to find out more about this fascinating subject. 

It is not unusual for dogs in particular, to directly comfort someone who is crying, for instance. Studies have found that dogs will seek out a person in distress, even if that person is not the dog’s owner. Many dog lovers can surely attest to their own dogs providing comfort, during times of sadness and stress.

Scientists suggest dogs have this trait because they have been selectively bred to be companions. Those dogs who are more likely to respond to human emotional cues, are the ones most likely to be kept as pets and subsequently bred from.

However, although studies strongly suggest dogs are able to empathise with people, scientists point out that, just because dogs behave in seemingly empathetic ways, doesn’t necessarily mean they actually understand true compassion.

Some scientists believe that empathetic behaviour in animals is associated with ‘emotional contagion’. This is where someone responds to another’s emotional state, but without really understanding what that other person is feeling.

An example of this behaviour in humans might be when one toddler at a nursery begins to cry, perhaps. This often sets off other children engaging in the same behaviour – but for no apparent reason.

How do dogs detect human emotion and how do they know when we are happy, or upset?

can dogs sense human emotionsDomesticated dogs certainly seem very skilled at reading human emotions, but how do they do it? In studies, researchers found that dogs have an ability to recognise different human emotions by combining audible and visual cues. In other words, dogs are able to match human facial expression to the corresponding sound – i.e. a cheerful, or an angry voice.

A relatively new study has found that dogs don’t just pick up on visual cues to work out whether their owner is feeling negative, or positive. The study carried out by researchers at Queen’s University Belfast found that dogs can smell stress from human breath and sweat. Scientists working on the research, concluded that dogs are very sensitive creatures, capable of interpreting human emotional states exceptionally well.

Of course, dogs also have an incredible sense of smell. What’s more, they can use this ability to sniff out changes in hormones and blood sugar levels. In addition, dogs are also extremely good at distinguishing barometric pressure associated with weather fluctuations.

The emotional bond between dogs and humans.

Dogs and humans are capable of sharing an exceptionally close emotional bond, developed over hundreds of years living together. If you feel that your dog is capable of picking up on your feelings – you are definitely right.

Dogs look to humans for clues on how to navigate their world. That’s why if you feel stressed, your dog will often feel anxious too.

Because of their incredible skills at detecting human emotion, dogs make perfect support partners in a range of human settings. At Holidays4Dogs we know how important the human-canine bond is. That’s why we have carefully selected dedicated carers to look after your dog when you go on holiday, or otherwise cannot be around to look after your dog. For more information on our services, please click the paw below. We very much look forward to hearing from you.

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