Dogs are incredibly good at reading our feelings. Their behaviour, and sometimes their misbehaviour, might stem from your feelings rather than their own personalities.
According to dog behaviourists, your dog will react to your moods in certain ways. While some of these are cute and positive, you may want to limit certain behaviours by regulating some of the negative cues you may be giving your pet.
1. When you are feeling sad
Dogs want to comfort people who are upset. A study showed that dogs even try and comfort unhappy people who aren’t their owners.
A dog who is reacting to your sadness will becomes subdued and submissive. He may even go off his food.
When dogs react to sadness, they may begin by watching you from a distance and then come closer to you and lie beside you. If you are crying, they may try to lick the tears away. They just want you to be happy again!
2. When you are afraid
You’ve probably heard that dogs can smell fear. Scientists say that they will notice smells that indicate fear, but that they also read your body language and use it to guide their behaviour.
Big, bold dogs will try to protect you if you’re afraid, and more nervy dogs will be even more frightened than you are.
Dogs react to fear by raising their hackles, and may even tremble with fear. Their pupils dilate and their hair can literally stand on end.
3. When you are angry
Your dog might not know why you are angry, but he or she will recognise it. Unfortunately, your pooch could get the wrong idea about the reasons for your anger. This can lead to confusion and frustration for your pet.
A dog who is reacting to anger does the ‘guilty’ act that most pet owners will recognise. Some animal experts argue that they only know you are angry – they’re not really feeling guilty about anything.
A study in which pet owners were asked to scold their dog for no reason produced the same guilt reaction that the dog showed if it had actually been naughty.
4. When you dislike someone
Without realising it, we give off subtle signals when we distrust or dislike someone. Our dogs pick up on these feelings and become protective, or even aggressive.
Sometimes, you may think that your dog has made the same judgment call as you did, but it’s possible that your pet is just mirroring your feelings.
5. When you are feeling anxious or worried
It’s hardly surprising that your dog picks up on anxiety. Dogs often ‘misbehave’ purely because they are reacting to your nervousness.
If you’re worried about leaving Fido at home or are anxious about taking him to the vet, your pet picks up your feelings and reflects them in his or her own way. Quite often, these anxious behaviours are exactly what we were anxious about in the first place.
When you are happy and relaxed
Luckily dogs don’t only reflect your negative feelings and attitudes, they also notice positive feelings. If you are pleased and excited about a visit from a friend, your dog will very likely feel the same way.
When you are relaxed, you dog will often stretch out beside you and relax too. If you are excited, your pet might decide that it’s time to romp around.
Dogs are great therapy animals, and one of the things they can teach us is how to moderate our feelings. Have you ever stopped crying just because you’re upsetting your dog? You won’t be the first person to do so!
If you want your pet to feel positive about something, the best way to do that is to feel positive yourself.
According to dog trainers, a lot of cases of ‘separation anxiety’ can be ascribed to owners who feel anxious about leaving their pets. In that case, acting as if nothing of importance is happening when you go out can help your pet to cope better.
If you’re hoping that your dog will fall in love with a new toy, introducing it when you are in a positive and playful mood will create the right associations.
For example, the Foobler is an interactive toy that has been developed with doggie preferences in mind. It’s a great way to keep your pet entertained while you aren’t at home, but you should be careful to introduce it to your dog when you are in a positive frame of mind.
It should also be available when you are at home, or your pet will start to associate the toy with something it doesn’t like – you going out.
Dogs aren’t psychic, but they are clever
Dogs are so good at reading our emotions and intentions, that it would be easy to think that they are psychic. But they’re really just very good at picking up cues from you and from other people around them.