Can Dogs Sense Sadness in Their Owners?

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They’re our best friends, our loyal companions, but just how much does your dog know about you? Can dogs sense sadness? Does your best friend know you better than you think? We are happy to say yes!

There are various factors in which dogs can dogs sense sadness and emotion and even how they deal with their human friends.

Dogs are pack animals with very similar social patterns to humans. Both share a complex series of facial expressions, body language, and audible cues to convey emotion.

As a survival mechanism, dogs have become rewarded with food, love, and attention by better anticipating our thoughts and feelings.

Having such a close mutual relationship with your dog, it’s no wonder your best bud instinctively knows when you’re sad, angry, anxious, or even ill.

dog - head cocked

But just how do dogs know when you’re sad? What do they do with this knowledge? Is this all theory or science? The short answer is that they can get a good idea of our raw emotions based on various factors; they try to comfort us as best they can using multiple methods. It has been studied and proven with science. Our article below explains it all.

How Can Dogs Sense Sadness and Emotions?

So what’s the deal? Are dogs psychic and able to read minds? Well, there’s more going on than meets the eye. Dogs can sense your emotions in a variety of different ways. This includes visual, scent and auditory cues that tell our canine companions what we’re feeling. Your dog pays close attention to you, perhaps more than you realise.

Dogs Sense Sadness Through Smell

When we experience mood fluctuations, our chemical balances change within the body. With their ability to smell about one million times stronger than us, dogs can detect these hormonal fluctuations. Interestingly, this can not only tell your dog how you are feeling emotionally but also give them clues as to your physical health.

great big nose

Dogs know when you’re sad just by your smell, how you feel, and even if you are sick. Some dogs have been known to smell changes before seizures and go on to become medical alert companions. Dogs ability to sense is indeed a superpower.

Dogs Sense Sadness Through Sight

Dogs have the innate ability to understand our facial expressions and body language. They can tell by our posture, gait, head carriage and even facial expressions what we are experiencing and going through.

Our best friends watch for these cues in body language to better gauge how we’re feeling. Combined with our scent, they can tell without any sounds made precisely how we think, at least when it comes to superficial emotions.

Dogs Sense Sadness Through Verbal Cues

Dogs can also read your tone of voice. Your tone of voice tells your dog a lot about you. They can pick up stress, anxiety, anger, sadness and a range of other emotions just by looking at us.

Your best friend keeps an eye on you and listens to you. They may even try to help if you’re feeling low; keep reading for more!

Dogs Sense Sadness Through Other Auditory Cues

Finally, in a recent study at the University of London,  researchers looked at dogs’ reactions to crying and humming. Nearly all the dogs showed signs of submissive body language as they went to comfort their crying owner.

dog with head on owners lap

Our canine companions watch us, listen to us and even get a sense of how we’re feeling through smell. They know how we’re feeling on an intimate level and do their very best to help us when we’re feeling low.

Can Dogs Sense Sadness? Reflecting Emotions

Dogs may reflect the emotions of their owners. This means that they may act sad when you are; they may also reflect happiness and anxiety. Recent research has said that dogs don’t always reflect their owners’ emotions. These studies suggest that dogs simply react to our feelings. Sometimes that means acting sad or anxious; other times, it means comforting or distracting us.

Does your dog reflect your emotions? Pay close attention to how you’re feeling and see if your dog acts the same way!

Can Dogs Sense Sadness? How Dogs Try To Help

A dog comforts and helps an owner in a variety of ways to combat sadness. This can include touching, giving their owner space, or even trying to cheer you up with a distraction. Your best bud wants what’s best for you. They don’t like to see you sick or sad any more than we like to see them like that.

They love us, they care, and they want to help while we’re feeling down or sick. There are various ways your companion pays attention to you, and depending on the dog, they may respond to your emotions in a variety of ways.


Dogs will touch their owners and encourage their owners to pet them to comfort their owners to ease their negative emotions. Your best bud may do this by pushing your arm with their nose or placing a paw on your lap.

Black and white image of a dog nuzzling their owner

Dogs also may become ‘clingy’ and seek out extra attention from you. They’re just trying to help you, not annoy you.

Giving Space

Dogs may also give space to an upset owner. Some dogs prefer to move away and take a step back when they sense a change in emotion. They will return to their owners once they feel that their owner is ready for their company again. It’s not that your best friend doesn’t want to be around you; it is merely that they wish not to bother you when you’re not feeling well.


Finally, some dogs try to inspire a change to a positive emotion with the distraction technique. These dogs may drop a ball at your feet, encourage play, or go outside to try and take our minds off whatever is causing us stress.

dog with ball in outr

Your best friend may seem like they’re just hyper or want to play, but it could be a distraction to try and help you if you’re not feeling well!

Can Dogs Sense Sadness? Predicting Emotions

That’s right! Not only can dogs sense sadness, but they can also tell what your emotions may become. This is especially true when they know they’ve done something wrong. It is theorised that dogs have brains similar to that of a human toddler, so they’re a lot smarter than we give them credit for. Although a recent study suggests dogs cannot feel guilt, they still know that what they’ve done will make you mad.

What causes dogs to predict emotion? Is it cause and effect or some kind of sixth sense? Scientists are still studying these things, but for now, we don’t know.

Which Breeds Pick Up Emotions the Best?

We can train all dogs to pick up certain scents or emotional cues. Some breeds, however, are better suited to this than others. These dogs include French Bulldogs, King Charles Spaniels and Pugs as they have the ideal mix of energy, trainability and constant affection. No matter your canine companions breed, though, they will try their best to pay attention and understand you to the very best of their abilities.

In Conclusion

So, can dogs sense sadness? The simple answer is yes. Through a variety of emotion-sensing traits, our canine companions know precisely when you’re low as well as a variety of other emotions. They do their best in our times of need to bring comfort and understanding through things like touch and distraction. All in all, dogs are excellent companions that are way more intuitive than we tend to give them credit for.

dog and owner looking at a sunset, picture taken from behind

Your best friend loves you, cares and wants to help. You don’t have to be alone when you have your canine companion by your side. They know us better than we could have ever thought!

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Girl sat on a sofa drinking from a red cup, across her knee asleep is a Golden Labrador


All information in the article is for educational purposes only and is not meant to replace your veterinarian’s advice.


All information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not meant to replace your veterinarian's advice.
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