Can Dogs Sense Our Emotions?
All dog owners like to think that their pet can sense their mood and emotions. Although researchers now accept that dogs, and other non-human animals, can experience primary emotions such as anxiety, fear, and anger, they still do not accept that “animals” have a sense of self and are capable of sophisticated secondary emotions. Instead, the scientists believe that non-human animals are incapable of understanding the feelings of others around them. Without a sense of self, they say, secondary emotions, like jealousy (he's enjoying that… but I would enjoy more) or empathy (what a terrible situation that person/other dog is in) are impossible.
This is a complicated argument, and we don't have to review the details here, but suffice to say, not everyone agrees with the scientists. As sympathetic as I am to the difficulties of scientifically proving animal self-awareness and secondary emotions, I prefer to give animals the benefit of the doubt. I assume that higher animals, like dogs, are sensitive creatures with feelings and emotions that can and do project beyond the blatantly obvious.
Examples of Dogs Sensing our Emotions
Conclusion About Can Dogs Sense Our Emotions?
Examples of dogs seemingly picking up on our emotions are endless but still the scientific proof is not there. I suppose it would be very difficult for some folks to accept that dogs, or any animals, might have minds that work in ways similar to our own. I suppose the believers still have a long way to go to convince the skeptics.
The case against animals being able to pick up on our mood and mindset is based on lack of confirmatory evidence as opposed to conclusive evidence to the contrary. But the times they are a changin.' In one primate experiment, Harvard researchers trained a monkey to lower a basket of fruit down from a pulley in the ceiling. When the researchers stopped putting fruit in the basket, the monkey stopped lowering the basket. When another monkey was suspended in the basket and screamed blue murder, the trained monkey lowered him to the ground. The action appears to reflect empathy though the researchers are still working on other possible explanations.
From an evolutionary point of view, it would be very strange if dogs did not have the ability to sense mood. It would also be an almost incredible fluke if self-consciousness suddenly occurred for the first and only time in the human animal. It doesn't make sense to have a pack animal like a dog unequipped to realize when he was getting into trouble with another dog or when his behavior was having the desired effect. If dogs feel what we feel, they should be happy when we're happy, sad when we're sad, and on the lookout (or hiding) when we're angry. All of the above do occur, on an almost daily basis, in our homes.