We love to humanise our dogs. But do they cry?
Dogs can feel sadness and they have tears, but the two aren’t necessarily related.
If you’ve ever looked into your dog’s eyes while he’s being reprimanded, after he’s stepped on a sharp thorn, or when he’s watching as you leave for the day, then you know that dogs can certainly feel sad – and show it. But do dogs cry?
Dogs experience a range of emotions including happiness, frustration, love, boredom, joy, grief, loyalty, and, yes, sadness, says veterinarian Linda Simon. “And they have ways of expressing each of those feelings.” For example, this is how your pet is trying to say “I love you.” But crying probably isn’t one of those expressions of sadness, according to Dr Simon.
The bottom line is that dogs do not express sadness the same way we do. “People love to ‘humanise’ our four-legged friends, but while it is fun to assume dogs think the way we do, that’s just not the case,” says veteran dog trainer and behaviourist Jen Jones. “Dogs are less complicated than humans are, particularly when it comes to their emotions.” In case you were wondering, here’s what dogs think about.
What makes dogs sad?
Dogs feel sad for many of the same reasons we do, like pain, loneliness, loss, and grief, Dr Simon says. While most doggy sadness is brief, sometimes they can experience very deep and long-lasting sadness. For instance, there have been verified accounts of bereaved dogs who have waited loyally by gravesites day in and day out, longing for their deceased owners to return.
Those aren’t the only reasons, though. Another potential source of sadness is your dog’s compassion for you. When their human is sad, a dog will often express sadness as well, even if they don’t understand why you are upset, Jones says.
Dogs are more emotionally intelligent than we give them credit for, particularly when it comes to reading the feelings of their people. “They are incredibly cued into our feelings, emotions, facial expressions, and even our health,” Jones says. “So, while dogs can’t express sadness or think about it in the same complex way humans do, they certainly do understand and feel much more than we might realise.”
What do dog tears mean?
Humans appear to be the only animals that cry tears of emotion, Dr Simon says. That said, you’ve probably noticed your pup’s eyes getting watery on occasion, and sometimes they may even look grief-stricken at the same time. So, if they’re not crying, then what do their tears mean?
Similar to humans, dogs’ eyes produce tears to keep them clean, protected, and lubricated. However, canine tear ducts are structured differently, funnelling the liquid back into their body, rather than spilling out over their cheeks. So if you see your dog “crying” tears, a call to the vet might be in order. According to Dr Simon, this can signal a blocked tear duct, allergies, something in their eye, an infection, or an injury to the eye.