Dog owners spend an inordinate amount of time trying to read their dog’s thoughts. In the absence of a shared language, we attempt to understand what they’re thinking and feeling at any given time. If your dog comforts you when you’re sad, there’s a great explanation for their empathy.
Have you ever gotten really excited about something? Chances are, your dog was right beside you, eager to participate in this electrifying experience. They may have started barking, wagging their tail, jumping up on you, and generally reveling in the moment.
The same drive that inspires your dog to match an exalted state leads them to comfort you when you’re sad. Amazingly, MRI studies show a parallel between human and canine results. The areas of the human brain that are active during certain emotions are actually the same in dogs. This supports the theory that dogs feel the same, or at least similar, feelings that we do.
In a show of absolute canine intelligence, dogs can recognize and understand anywhere from 165-250 words. This is about on par with the average human toddler, ape, or parrot. This fact, coupled with a heightened emotional intelligence, makes it possible for dogs to sense how you’re feeling. Sure, they might not fully understand the emotion you’re experiencing, but they know how to respond to it.
Your Dog Comforts You
Humans have a fairly regular emotional baseline, and dogs can intuit what’s normal and what’s not. They can’t respond to your emotional state in the same way you’re expressing it, but they know exactly what default you react to. In other words, their closeness, the nudging of their nose, their unwavering, deep gaze, and their overwhelming warmth make soothing your sadness a possibility.
Cause and Effect
Dogs are definitely selfless, but they know implicitly that comforting you will likely trigger a head scratch, hug, or snuggle. In other words, they get a type of bonus by offering you love, attention, and comfort. Brilliant!
In contrast with concrete items, like everyday objects the use often, human emotions are incredibly abstract. However, that doesn’t mean that dogs don’t experience sadness or depression like we do.
In fact, dogs do suffer from depression. If you ever see the following symptoms, your dog may need help:
- Any changes in behavior or personality
- Increased vocalization
- Decreased appetite
- Sudden withdrawal or clinginess
- Destructive or aggressive behavior
- Lack of enjoyment in previously loved activities
If you think your dog might be a little depressed or you need some advice about health or behavior, please call us at (732) 531-1212.