Do Dogs Know When You are Sad? Can Dogs Sense Sadness? Here’s What We Know

Have you ever been crying your eyes out over something, only for your dog to come over and start licking your face? Or have you ever been hiding your real sadness all day only for your furry companion to come to you to cuddle? Has it ever felt like they could see right through you?

I’ve had this happen many times in my life with many different dogs, regardless of breed or size. Any time I’ve faced any kind of sadness, my furbabies would come to me to help. Other people I know have experienced the same kind of situation with their companions. So, of course, when you hear these situations you may wonder: can dogs sense your sadness?

The simple answer: Yes. Definitely. Any owner can tell you that they’ve seen it firsthand. There are countless stories on the internet about our furry friends sensing our sadness and coming to the rescue. And if you don’t believe us, you’re about to see that the research agrees with us.

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Human and a dog


How Can Dogs Tell When You’re Sad?

Despite how it may seem sometimes, our furry friends don’t sense our sadness using supernatural powers. They use senses like sight, hearing, and smell to tell how we’re feeling. And they do an incredible job at it.

A dog’s senses are way more sensitive than ours and can see, smell, and hear things that we humans can’t. That may seem like it has nothing to do with emotions, but our furry companions can use all of their senses to tell how we’re feeling, even if we’re doing a great job hiding it from the rest of the world. This is why your companion can see right through you even if you’ve put up a facade that fools everyone else.

Body Language

The eye of a dog can see more than you might think. They’re very good at reading body language. They can tell what your facial expression means and what you’re feeling as a result. Your companion is smart enough to tell what a smile or a sad face means and can act accordingly.

If you sit in front of your furry friend and smile and make a happy face, chances are they’ll start wagging their tail and getting happy themselves. Likewise, if you make a sad or distressed face, they’ll likely get sad too. Even if you are not aware of what kind of face you’re making, your furbaby can look at you and identify what your face is saying. They can identify sadness just by looking at you.

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Dog laying their head on a human’s lap


Your furry companion can differentiate between crying and laughing and what those sounds mean. They understand that crying is a sound of sadness or distress and will try to get to their owners to comfort them. Many of us have seen this firsthand when our companions come to comfort us when we’re crying.

Naturally, our furry friends can also tell that we’re happy when we laugh or mad when we yell. I’ve seen laughter encourage my dogs to also get happy and play more, and I’ve seen yelling scare them into hiding out of the way, even if it wasn’t them being yelled at.

Smell and Hormones

As everyone knows, dogs have an incredible sense of smell. Depending on the breed, their sense of smell can be 10,000-100,000 times stronger than ours. This means that they can pick up on smells and changes in smells that we don’t even know about.

A study found that they can smell sweat indicating a strong emotional response from humans and respond accordingly. They could tell that the humans who produced the sweat were scared or upset about something, and got upset and fearful themselves.

Our companions are sensitive to things that we have no real ability to sense, like hormone changes. They can detect changes in adrenaline, which can be caused by fear or excitement. Your furbaby can smell and sense hormones like dopamine and serotonin, hormones that indicate happiness or lack of it. They can detect a decrease in these hormones when you’re sad or getting sick.

How Do Dogs Help with Your Sadness?

As you’ve seen, our furry friends don’t just sense your sadness. They want to help too. Seeing you sad makes them sad as well, and they’ll do anything they can to make you smile again.

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Dog comforting a human

Your furbaby will do any number of things to cheer you up, depending on the animal and your relationship. They may come to lick your face and snuggle when you’re crying (I’ve been there), they may just sit with you with their head in your lap, or they may try to cuddle. They may even try to distract you from your sadness by making you play with them.

I realized recently that my Pekingese does this a lot. If she knows I’m feeling down, she’ll either lead me to the sofa to cuddle or make me play with her. I almost always feel better after, even if I’m initially annoyed at her for it.

Meanwhile, my old Pitbull/German Shepherd mix would paw at me, make a sad face at me, and cling to me. She wouldn’t leave my side until she knew I was okay. She would even whimper and cry for me.

Our furry friends may have different ways of handling things just like we do. Some of them may even just give you space until you’re ready to be around them. I’ve seen my furbabies do this at times too. So don’t assume your companion doesn’t care if they don’t immediately come to your side when you’re sad. They may just be giving you space that you probably need.

How Deeply Do Dogs Sense Emotions?

Science says that dogs have the emotional intelligence of a human toddler. That means that they can understand what emotions we’re feeling and feel empathy even if they can’t understand why we’re feeling something. Their sharp sense of empathy leads them to feel our emotions more strongly than some people and want to do something about it.

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An emotional support dog

Our furry companions don’t just sense emotions like sadness. They can tell when you’re sick as well, which could be why you’re feeling down. They can sense chemical changes as well as a pained facial expression and will stick to a sick person’s side. They can detect other hormone changes as well. Dogs can potentially pick up on illnesses or even pregnancies before you do.

Because our furbabies can sense emotions, hormone changes, and illnesses so well, they can be trained to help with mental and physical disabilities. This is why they can be trained as service dogs and help people with issues like PTSD. They can pick up on changes that a human can easily miss and act before anyone even knows there’s a problem.

Even without training, dogs can be great emotional support animals or therapy dogs just by being there because they can sense emotions so well. They can detect your sadness even if you try to hide it from other people. And they won’t just ignore it; they’ll do their best to comfort you. This is why anyone struggling with depression and anxiety should look into getting a furry companion for themselves, provided they can handle the responsibility.

Because your dog can sense your emotions and can be strongly affected by them, you need to be keeping an eye on them. If you’re depressed enough, your companion may get depressed too. They have feelings and limits too, after all.

Look out for signs of withdrawal. If they get depressed, they may stop eating, playing, enjoying walks, and other issues. Make sure you’re still taking them out, playing with them, and letting them help you as much as possible. Remember that they can get emotionally tired too.

Dogs Can Sense Your Feelings

Yes, dogs can feel your sadness. And yes, they care about your sadness. They love their people and want them to be happy, and they have the empathy to feel your pain when you’re not happy.

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Dog laying his head on his human’s stomach

With their superior senses, they can hear, smell, and see things that a human may miss and can even sense our feelings through hormone changes. Because of this, they’re perfect as a companion for those in need of emotional support. You can even register your dog as an emotional support animal if you meet certain qualifications.

Make sure you appreciate your furry friend and treasure what they do for you when things get hard. They may not be able to fix everything or talk you through it, but they will give you a shoulder to cry on whenever you need it.

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