Have you ever felt like your furry friend was responding directly to your mood? Does your canine cuddle up on your lap when you’re feeling down in the dumps, or seem to mimic your excitement even if he doesn’t quite know what’s going on?
Your dog may not be officially licensed as an emotional support animal, but there are times when he certainly seems to be in tune with your feelings. Are your feelings contagious? Is it pure coincidence?
Read on to learn about the emotional connections between people and pets, and just how incredible they can be.
Dogs and Emotional Connection
You and your dog share a close bond. If you feel that your furry best friend is picking up on your feelings, you’re probably right—through behavioral and chemical cues, dogs are able to pick up and distinguish between a variety of human emotions.
On top of that, some human emotions can even be “contagious” to dogs. Your dog trusts you more than anyone else, so he looks to you for cues about how to react to the world around him. When you seem comfortable and calm during a stressful situation, your dog will feel more safe and secure as a result; if you’re stressed, your dog will also feel stressed.
Using Senses to Sense Emotions
Dogs are incredibly social creatures. That said, their incredible sense of empathy isn’t just based on their love for you—there are psychological and physiological reasons behind it, too.
Your dog may be relatively colorblind, but he’s not blind to your emotions. In fact, there is a study conducted by the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna that states that dogs are able to distinguish between happy and angry facial expressions.
Another study found that dogs respond differently to six basic emotions shown on human faces: anger, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise, and disgust.
Dogs can also connect with humans in other visual ways, such as with eye contact and body language. For example, making eye contact with your dog can stimulate the release of oxytocin (the “love hormone”).
Dogs are also able to understand the differences between different tones of voice and decipher emotions accordingly. Fido may not understand everything that you’re saying, but he can tell if it’s coming from a place of positivity or negativity.
Studies have shown that dogs can distinguish between positive and negative sounds. For example, negative sounds such as crying or screaming tend to result in a more upset dog; positive sounds such as laughing result in a happier, more excited dog.
When combining what they see and what they hear, dogs are able to pick up on the general idea of how you’re feeling. Don’t be surprised if your pup comes to the rescue with snuggles if he notices you crying!
It’s no secret that dogs have an incredible sense of smell. In fact, a dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times more acute than a human’s!
Smelling is one of the primary methods that dogs use to communicate with each other. When your pup sniffs a canine friend, he’s able to learn about the other dog’s sex, age, health, recent meals and encounters, and even mood.
Fido is also able to sniff out your emotions; dogs can smell changes in blood sugar levels, hormones, and brain chemicals. With those incredible smelling skills, it makes sense that so many dogs are trained as service animals or emotional support pets to sniff out any signs of concern and pick up on moments when their owner may need some extra support, affection, or assistance.
Of course, we also want to support our pets’ mental health in return. Pet Honesty’s Premium Hemp Calming Chews are a gentle, non-sedating way to reduce anxiety and make stressful situations more enjoyable. Plus, they come in a tasty duck flavor!
Cats and Emotional Support
Dogs are known for their loyalty and unconditional love. Cats, on the other hand, can be a lot less predictable. Your kitty may not always show her affection in the same way that your dog does, but she can certainly pick up on your emotions, too.
Like dogs, cats are able to detect the differences between a happy face and a sad face; if you seem happy, your cat is more likely to stick around for more cuddles. She can also hear the difference between a happy or angry tone of voice; if you sound angry or tense, she’s much more likely to seek out a safe hiding space.
If your kitty isn’t sure how to react in a situation, she may look to you for cues. If you seem calm and confident, your cat will feel more safe and secure. If you seem stressed or scared, your cat is more likely to feel stressed and scared too.
There are also times when your cat may feel just fine, but notice that you seem upset. She may lie down next to you or curl up on your lap to release oxytocin. She may even begin purring or kneading as a way to show comfort and affection.