Can Dogs Feel Stress From Humans?

Did you know that dogs can feel anxious just from watching their human counterparts being stressed? It’s true! Dogs are smart creatures and are quite sensitive to the emotions of their owners. Most pet owners don’t realize this but dogs can become happy, sad, stressed, or any other emotion just by watching the behaviors of their human family members. 

This article is going to explain why dogs feel stress from humans, how to spot it, and what you can do to prevent it from happening. 

Can My Dog Sense That I am Stressed?

Your dog picks up on all of your emotional and physical cues. Unfortunately, dogs can’t filter good emotions from bad emotions, which means your dog likely senses the tension that accompanies stress. 

Why Do Dogs Seem to Mirror our Emotions and Behaviors?

Dogs are natural pack animals and have a predisposition for fully integrating with a group. Even if the rest of the group is only one person, a dog instinctually uses the behavior of others to influence his decisions and behavior patterns. 

Can My Dog Read My Mind?

Sometimes it may feel like your dog is inside your head, but in reality, he is just an excellent listener. It may not always seem this way, especially when he disobeys a direct command, but your dog is still listening to you.

Your dog can’t read your mind, but he can recognize patterns in behavior and use those patterns to establish what is “normal.” Any time the model changes, your dog picks up on the shift and begins to spend more time and energy watching and listening. Extra attention from your dog certainly makes it seem like he is in touch with your emotions. In reality, he is using his astute sense of observation to calculate the shift in your daily patterns.  

How Does My Dog Communicate?

Your dog is continually communicating with you. Vocal cues like barking, along with eye contact and physical touch, are the only ways your dog has to express himself. As a result of his limited resources to engage with you, your dog relies on his ability to absorb information through sight and sound. 

You are the greatest asset your dog has when it comes to dealing with the world around him. As a result, every action you take, whether conscious or subconscious, is being communicated to your dog.  

Can My Dog Feel My Stress?

The short answer is yes; your dog can feel your stress. Because of the way your dog communicates with you, i.e., watching your patterns and responses, your dog can tell when your behavior is out of the ordinary. Many dog owners will mistake this behavior as empathy or deep emotional understanding, but really, this is just your dog’s way of coping with change.

Due to your dog’s limited ability to communicate with you, his response is to pay closer attention to you will manifest in physical touch, vocal cues, or prolonged eye contact, and sometimes a combination of all three.  

How Do I Ensure My Stress Does Not Affect My Dog?

The best way to prevent your dog from feeling stressed out is to stick to a routine. Feed him at similar times each day and have one or more designated periods of exercise. Contrary to popular belief, dogs do have an understanding of time, and your dog can remember and decipher what time of day you routinely eat, and walk, etc. Events like playtime and dinner give your dog something to look forward to throughout the day, keeping his mind stress free.

Is My Stress Bad For My Dog? 

Stress is bad for animals, just like it is for humans. Stressful environments lead to an increase in cortisol levels, which decreases dopamine and serotonin in the brain. Because your dog takes many of his emotional cues from you as his owner, it is vital to maintain a relatively stress-free environment in the home.

Don’t Stress About Stress

It is important to remember that your own personal internal stress does not create a stressful environment for your dog. However, the actions you take to cope with that stress, especially when negative and harmful to yourself or others, can significantly affect his well-being. This is not to say you can never be stressed out around your dog. In fact, your dog may be the best possible companion to help you cope with stress and other emotional anxiety. 

Your dog relies on his intuition, but intuition is developed over time based on a combination of instinct and pattern recognition. Your body language, actions, and words are all cues for your dog that enable him to make assessments and take action. This is how your dog can “feel” your stress and then respond in kind. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but the way our dogs constantly process and retain new information is absolute magic. 

 

Sources:

Dogs Can Feel Our Stress, Study Suggests. (2019, June 06). Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/dogs-stress-humans-study_l_5cf972dee4b0b08cf7eb281d

Is Your Anxiety Contagious To Your Dog? (2019, April 05). Retrieved from https://dogtime.com/dog-health/63091-anxiety-contagious-dog

Hersher, R. (2019, June 06). You May Be Stressing Out Your Dog. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/06/06/729328198/you-may-be-stressing-out-your-dog

Can Dogs Sense Tension? (2018, July 27). Retrieved from https://wagwalking.com/sense/can-dogs-sense-tension

5 Amazing Things Dogs Can Sense About Humans. (2018, December 24). Retrieved from https://iheartdogs.com/5-amazing-things-dogs-can-sense-about-humans/

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