Do Dogs Have Feelings? Your Guide To Understanding Canine Emotions

Although there have been many developments and innovations in biological science, it is still complex to understand dogs’ brain functioning processes. Just like humans, animals, especially dogs, also have memories, although short-term. Their way of remembering things is with the association of objects and smells. They cannot remember the whole incident. Memories often give rise to specific emotional reactions that exhibit in the form of expressions and behaviors.

Do dogs also possess feelings and how to analyze them? Yes, dogs, too, have feelings, and they react in a certain way depending on their emotional state. Memories also generate feelings that they associate with smell, space, and objects. It is thus essential to figure out their perception and sensitivity, which will result in relieving stress. It will lead to generate and enhance positive emotions and overcome the negative ones.

Experienced pet parents are mature enough to understand the feelings of their canines. For new parents, it might seem a bit difficult. It takes time to understand the nature of dogs’ emotions, and it is difficult to differentiate between negativity and positivity. Although dogs cannot express their feelings through words like humans, they exhibit their mental state through behavior.

Emotional Experiences in Canines

Amidst the scientific research, the emotions and feelings of dogs is still a debatable concept. Researchers and scholars believe that animals have a similar mechanism of experiencing feelings like human beings. In canines also they are results of the reactions of various chemical and hormonal changes.

Dogs do not have the same rate of intelligence and communication processes. Thus, they are unable to exchange the exact feeling that they encounter. Dogs also have similar mechanisms for releasing various hormones from their internal glands. These affect the various changes in their emotional state.

  • Oxytocin is responsible for enhancing affection towards their beloved. Cuddling and snuggling release oxytocin and help dogs feel secured. Thus, dogs prefer staying close to their pet parents as it relieves them from stress and anxiety.
  • Interactive sessions between the pet owner and his dog increase the level of cortisol in dogs. Unnatural behaviors that occur due to the absence of activities and high stress are encouraged by the low level of cortisol. 

Since dogs are quite popular among pet animals, the bond that pet owners share with them is similar to that of parents with their children. These similarities are due to the similar functioning of the endocrine system of dogs and humans.

Understanding different feelings in Dogs

It will benefit if you take a glance at some of the common feelings that every dog encounters. It will help you recognize their mental state.

The feeling of pain or physical distress

Physical pain occurs due to external or internal injuries. Dogs are prone to various genetic disorders like elbow and hip dysplasia, heart conditions, and other physical abnormalities.

  • Injuries may also occur due to accidental falls, which are mostly internal. Since not visible from the exterior, internal injuries may increase substantially in time without treatment. Pain often makes them behave differently, as they are unable to perform specific tasks.
  • Skin allergies and infections also cause physical distress. Keep a check on their coat and skin through regular brushing. Look out for frequent scratching and licking on a specific body part. 

Dogs tend to show destructive behavior to overcome the pain and divert themselves from it. You may also notice rolling on the grass or rubbing their skin against the wall to reduce skin irritation. Do not ignore such indications and look out for infections or parasite growth.

The feel of happiness and excitement

Happiness is one of the best feelings one experiences. Dogs exhibit excitement on your arrival after a long time or while serving their favorite treat or meal. Regular interaction with pet parents and a sufficient amount of attention also gives them a sense of security and contentment. They will show their happiness either by jumping or licking your face and hands.   

The feel of sadness

Dogs are quite emotional when it comes to separation from their loved ones. They prefer staying in constant touch with their human counterparts. The absence of loved ones which makes them feels lonely and sad. Boredom often changes their behavior to aggression and extensive chewing. It, in turn, either results in hurting themselves or damaging valuable household items, respectively.

On identifying such signs, make sure you try to figure out the exact reason. Provide them ample time for cuddling and snuggling with you. Dog toys are an excellent alternative for engagement in your absence. Those in the stage of extensive chewing, you can invest in some chewing toys to minimize damage. Take them out on a stroll in the neighborhood or run beside you while you ride a bicycle.  

 Feeling or a sense of fear

Although dogs seem harsh from the outside, many of them are also timid and shy. For example, the French Bulldogs are startled even with the slightest of noise. Some dogs are also scared of children for their behavior of pulling the dog’s ears and tail. They are also terrified of the sudden cry of babies or toddlers. Most pets are not very fond of strangers.

  • Dogs have a strange sense of smelling dangers and alert their pet parents with continuous barking. It is the reason why some of them are preferable as watchdogs. 
  • On being scared, they continue barking for a long time or will hide behind furniture. Some also exhibit different behavior as soon as sensing the smell of a veterinary clinic.
  • They are frightened with the feeling of confinement and pain from syringes etc. and other diagnostic activities. 
  • Although they are not unfamiliar, you may see that your pet is not fond of them. Your dog will either bark or attack for experiencing a bitter past.

The sense of guilt after wrongdoings

Dogs are cheerful, enthusiastic, and naughty as well. They show their guilty feeling of damaging a critical object or chewing up their pet parents’ shoes. When you arrive home and notice the mess in the kitchen or your bedroom, it will surely annoy you. On realizing their mistake and not being able to please their parents, dogs tend to feel guilty. They will not make eye contact, wag its tail, or sit quietly in a particular space.

Anxiety in dogs

Dogs tend to show unnatural behavior if separated from their beloved ones. Loneliness and staying away from human parents for a long time may result in separation anxiety. An anxious dog is quite unpredictable and dangerous. They either become destructive or show excess chewing of non-edible items.

  • Separation anxiety may result due to the death of a pet parent.
  • Disturbing the weaning session of puppies from mother dogs also results in anxious toddlers.
  • Change of environment or pet family also takes time to adjust; your new pet may show anxiousness and not cooperate with training till then.

During such instances, try to calm him down and divert his attention to other activities. Spending more time with him will help him overcome anxiety. Just like humans, dogs also show similar stimulation on gentle touch and caressing. A decrease in the level of a hormone called cortisol creates more stress. But when later increases, it acts as a stress-reliever.

Benefits of developing a strong understanding of pet dogs

Pet dogs are loyal and faithful to their pet parents and always have a goal to please them. They are also companions for those who are single or especially challenged. However, some families prefer pets as watchdogs for security and protection. Others consider them as partners to relieve themselves from depression and anxiety.

Thus, it is also necessary to take care of the pet to fulfill its purpose. Other than that, as a pet parent, it is your sole responsibility to maintain positive mental health in their pet dogs. It is crucial to develop a strong emotional bonding with your pets for the following reasons:

  • A stress-free pet, since puppyhood will later become an emotionally healthy dog at the mature stage.
  • Since a bitter past affects dogs in their present mental state, it is also necessary to help them overcome it by replacing it with good memories. Since they have short term memory, they can soon erase the negative thoughts on teaching the positive ones.
  • An emotionally intense pet will be receptive to training in a better and easier way than the one who is imbalanced emotionally.
  • A stressed pet often loses its appetite and does not bother to eat. Understanding the reason for stress will eliminate it and encourage us to eat better. Just providing a good meal is not the end of taking care. Utilizing the energy released from it is also crucial. It is possible only when a dog is happy and cheerful. When you understand the emotional state, it helps to overcome separation anxiety and other destructive behavior. It also reduces the risks of hurting themselves as well as others.  
  • Intelligence is dogs also depend on their mental and physical state. A healthy mind will automatically help in mental stimulation. 
  • Emotionally stable dogs can fight against internal health issues in a better way than others. The immune system also functions well and helps in recovering from ailments faster.
  • Since dogs can sense their pet parents’ emotions, it is essential that they, too, are taken care of. It helps in strengthening the bond and reduces their aggression.

The points mentioned above clearly state the identification of various feelings that a dog experiences. Whether new or experienced, every pet parent must support their respective pets while experiencing a change of behavior and support them overcoming the same. Punishing them will create a bad experience that may remain in their memory and also cause unnatural behavior.

Along with a healthy and nutritious diet, follow up with a veterinarian if you cannot handle their emotional disbalance. Proper treatment at the proper time will help in providing them a better lifestyle and also recover soon. Keep a check in their regular activities and note their frequency of changing behavior.

Dogs have feelings similar to humans, and the above guide will make the understanding procedure much easier for pet parents. Provide them healthy and positive surroundings and fulfill their basic needs and requirements.

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