If you have a dog, you can sense that he knows when you need him most. When you and your dog share a strong bond, it often seems that your best friend intuits your feelings and offers you support. But does your dog know when you are grieving?
Your Feelings Affect Your Dog’s Feelings
Your canine companion has been guided by you ever since he came into your life, so it’s natural that he looks to you for emotional cues. When you feel excited or cheerful, your dog will copy your mood. Conversely, if you feel anxious or fearful, your dog is likely to become anxious too.
Although animal behavior experts don’t fully understand how it happens, it is apparent that when you are grieving, your dog can pick up body language cues and smells that your family members and friends often don’t recognize or ignore. For instance, your dog will recognize if you are feeling fragile, slumped over, or not moving as well as you usually do.
- You don’t know it, but to a dog, you also smell different.
Dogs as Grief Counselors
Some hospices and care homes have live-in dogs that offer comfort to patients and inmates. They even use the animal’s behavior, such as who the dog chooses to sleep with, as a sign to call relatives to come and say their last goodbyes.
In addition, many funeral homes include a resident dog that obviously has an affinity toward grieving people.
Studies on the Emotions of Dogs
It is apparent that dogs do react to the emotional state of their owners. Animal behavior experts have tried to study the depth of dog feelings and how those emotions interact with those of humans. For instance, dogs faced with crying humans almost always approach the crying person.
In one study, dogs listened to audio recordings featuring negative and positive emotional stimuli, such as a human either crying or laughing. The dogs responded in different ways to the negative and positive emotional sounds, showing that they could pick up a person’s feelings just from the way their voice sounded.
- The science of dog emotions is continually growing. Currently, it’s not known exactly how much of doggy comfort is related to sympathetic understanding as opposed to behavioral cues. However, it is apparent that dogs have affective empathy, i.e., the ability to feel what others are feeling.
Dogs and Humans Evolved Together
And why shouldn’t your dog react to your feelings? After all, dogs were the first species to become domesticated and have lived with humans for thousands of years. During this long period, they have observed our every mood and emotion. The ability to read human emotions has helped them develop as a species and is why they now enjoy their unique status as man’s best friend.
So, does your dog know when you are grieving? In summary, yes, it does. However, the response your dog has to your grief depends on a number of factors including their personality. Don’t assume that a playful dog is unaware of your grief!
When You Are Grieving Over the Loss of Your Dog
Grieving the loss of a pet is equated to grieving the loss of a family member. Midlands Pet Care is here to provide compassionate services for your pet’s end-of-life plan. We specialize in sympathetic pet burials and cremations and understand how deeply you are grieving. We want your friend’s memory to be honored in the best way possible, so if you live in our area, please reach out to us.