In a recently study, the majority of dogs being hugged by humans in photos were showing visible signs of distress. But because you don’t know what those signs are (and chances are you punish your dog for doing them, thereby ignoring his feelings) you aren’t even aware your dog is miserable. Stop hugging your dog.
That doesn’t mean your dog doesn’t like you. It’s actually quite the opposite. Your dog loves you beyond measure. When your dog is alone, his oxytocin level drops drastically. But when you come home and play with him, his oxytocin level skyrockets. He also holds a grudge against anyone who treats you badly- over 60% of dogs will refuse to take a treat from anyone who mistreats their owner. You just don’t get that kind of loyalty in a parakeet.
Did you also know your dog can laugh? It may not sound like a laugh to you so you probably aren’t even aware of it, but your dog has a great sense of humor. When puppies hear recorded dog laughter they immediately start romping around and playing together, and recordings of dogs laughing are sometimes played at shelters to reduce stress. They also like to mirror each other’s actions and moods, showing they are really quite in tune with each other.
On the flip side of dog emotions, your dog can actually get quite depressed when he loses his animal companion. They can become clingy, lose interest in normal activities, or even lose their appetites when they get upset.
They also empathize with your emotions and 83.3% of dogs will leave their owner’s side to console a crying stranger, according to one study. They may not like hugs, but they still want to show you how much they love you every chance they get.
Dogs seem to feel the entire range of human emotions, at least as we understand them. In one experiment dog owners were given a stuffed dog toy and told to pay attention to it instead of to their dogs. Almost universally the dogs showed signs of being jealous- they tried to separate the owner from the stuffed pooch, snapped at it, or barked at it. Dogs will do anything for you as long as you don’t make them feel ignored.
The psychology of man’s best friend is complicated, and it can be pretty difficult to decipher since they can’t exactly just tell you how they’re feeling. Take the time to learn about their distress signals so you can be more empathetic to their needs as they are to yours. Your dog really does love you and he shows you every day, whether you realize it or not. Your dog is a lot more amazing than you might think. Learn more about dog emotions from this infographic! What’s the most surprising thing to you about your dog?