We know that dogs have the same complex brain structures as humans, including those responsible for emotions. Their consciousness undergoes the same chemical changes and is filled with the same hormones as our own during emotional states.
Dogs experience many of the same emotions as young children, but never progress to the more complex feelings of shame, pride, guilt, or contempt. These emotions develop later in a child’s life and require elements of learning that dogs are not capable of.
Can dogs understand and process human emotions?
Dogs not only recognize the visual cues of human emotion, but they also hear the difference between joy and distress in our voices.
Many dogs are very sensitive to the moods of family members. However, there is an important difference between associative behavior, such as learning to respond correctly to an angry voice, and recognizing a range of very different signals that together indicate the emotional arousal of another person.
Does your dog love you?
Our dogs really do love us. There is an “oxytocin-eye positive loop” that occurs when dogs make eye contact with their owners. This is most often used by babies and young mothers to cement their bond.
In addition to increasing oxytocin levels when looking at a loved one, the reward center in a dog’s brain also lights up when it catches the scent of its owner.
Finally, there are behavioral signs, such as running to their owner for comfort when they are frightened, which other animals rarely do.
How do dogs show their love?
Your dog shows his love for you every day. Domestic dogs have evolved to look us in the eye. It has become a way of strengthening the human-animal bond.
Dogs who sleep with their owners have accepted them as “members of the pack.” This is the ultimate sign of trust, as dogs are at their most vulnerable when sleeping.
Dogs that lean their bodies against humans during the day are looking for affection and reassurance. In this way, they think they are cuddling us.
Does your dog think of you when you’re not there?
The bond between human and dog leads to the formation of lasting memories. Many animals have experienced anxiety due to long absences from their owners. Dogs have very specific memories. They recognize people. There is a lot built into this relationship of care, love and affection. If a dog leaves its caregiver for an extended period of time, it is likely to experience grief. Even if you are only away for a few hours, your dog is probably thinking about you as much as you are about her.
Does your dog feel guilt or shame?
Many people claim that their dog shows signs of guilt after tearing up furniture or going to the bathroom indoors. However, what they actually see is a more basic emotion: fear. Dogs are not capable of feeling guilt or shame. Instead, they read the signs of frustration and anger in their owners and respond with anxiety.
Does your dog hold a grudge?
Contempt is not part of a dog’s capabilities. Dogs make social and emotional assessments of people regardless of their immediate interest.
How can you show your dogs that you love them?
Once you understand what emotions dogs experience and how they process them, you can better recognize the subtle signs of their love and affection.
If you have questions, contact a licensed health care provider for an ESA letter