You may have noticed once or twice when you sit there crying you find that your dog stops whatever they’re doing and comes to sit near you as if an alert went off in their head. As much as it’s a very comforting gesture, you may wonder why and how it happens?
So, why does my dog come to me when I cry? Your dog comes to you when you cry because of something called emotional contagion. Emotional contagion happens when your emotions trigger your dog’s similar emotions and make them respond to what you’re feeling. They don’t understand the emotion but they tend to show empathy.
Many experiments have been done around this matter, keep reading to know more about their findings and how your adorable furry best friend tends to react when you’re feeling down!
Do Dogs Understand Why We Cry?
So, do dogs understand why we cry? No, dogs don’t understand why we cry and can’t fully understand the emotion itself. However, they feel distressed whenever we look upset or crying and they can detect that something is off. Dogs will respond to that emotion and try to change it to a better one by cheering us up.
It’s nothing new knowing that dogs are intelligent and intuitive creatures that can sense and respond to what we want them to, even if it’s a human emotion that they don’t experience the same way. That means your loyal best friend will respond to whatever you’re feeling even if they don’t get it.
According to an article in Psychology Today titled “Your Dog Really Does Care If You Are Unhappy”, adult dogs have a mind similar to that of a human toddler, with about the same mental abilities, vocabulary, and emotional intelligence.
So maybe your baby won’t fully comprehend the emotion they observe but they can still react to it. That means dogs are also capable of doing the same thing.
So dogs may not fully understand the reason behind your tears, but they’ll show an amount of empathy no matter what.
Whenever a dog sees a sign of distress or upset emotions, not only will they approach you to be next to you, but they’ll also try to distract you from this emotion and they’ll do their best to cheer you up without knowing the reason behind all this.
Most experts believe that the only explanation for this is that dogs indeed experience emotional contagion.
It’s when they respond to your emotion and match it with a similar one without fully comprehending the emotion. This also explains how they become more cheerful when you’re feeling the same way.
Why Your Dog Comes to You When You Cry
Previous studies showed that dogs respond to human emotions even if they don’t understand them. It’s proven that dogs can also detect when someone is distressed and they feel the same way, even if they have no emotional connection with this person.
According to a new study published in the Learning and Behavior journal in July 2018, not only your dog can feel what you feel, but they’ll also try to help you feel better.
This study included a lab experiment to have a closer look at dogs’ behaviors when their owner is stressed.
Lab researchers brought 34 dogs of various breeds and sizes accompanied by their owners for the test. The owners had only one job; to sit behind a glass door that allows their dogs to see and hear them saying “help” every 15 seconds in whichever tone they choose. While some owners were asked to just sit there and hum peacefully between their calls of help.
The observations of this experiment were that dogs want to be with their owners whether they’re distressed or not.
However, dogs that saw their owners cry or look upset through the glass door rushed to open it 40 seconds faster than dogs who wanted to get to their humming owners. Dogs then tried to comfort their owners and make them feel better.
This shows that your dog will rush to you when you cry because 1) They know that something is off and 2) they want to help you feel better. But how do they attempt to do that? Found in the next section.
Other Ways Dogs Try to Comfort Us When We’re Sad
What are the other ways dogs try to comfort us when we’re sad? Dogs try to comfort us in other ways than rushing to sit next to us, such as physical contact or touching, using distraction by drawing your attention to something or maybe giving you a nudge to play outside, or simply giving you the space you need.
Your dog may hear you crying and leave whatever they’re distracted by and come sit next to you. But they also have other ways in which they can show empathy and try to make you feel better, such as:
- Distraction. They try to distract you to stop crying or to do something fun instead. If you found your dog gathering toys in your lap and trying to draw your attention to them, know that that’s their way to help you get distracted.
- Physical contact. Whether it’s a touch, a nudge, or a lick on the face to show affection, these are many options your dog will use to cheer you up and say “hey! You’re not alone”.
- “Let’s play outside”. Now that’s not a direct one and can be harder to detect, but your day may encourage you to go for a walk or do something outside to help you exercise and feel better.
- Silence and giving space. Some dogs will choose a different tactic, they’ll silently sit next to you or give you the space you need till you feel better. That doesn’t mean they don’t feel what you feel, but they chose to let you take your time while knowing that you’re not alone.
It’s important to know that every dog is different, and some of them are more comforting and reassuring than others and they have different languages to translate their affection.
If your dog doesn’t do anything from what’s listed above to comfort you, don’t think it doesn’t take care of you. Your dog may have its own unique way to show empathy and you just need to pay closer attention to your relationship to figure it out.
Some dogs may even seemingly do the exact opposite and avoid you. But there’s a good explanation for that as well. You can learn why your dog may avoid you when you cry here.
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Can Dogs Sense When We’re Crying?
Yes, dogs can sense when we’re crying. They Can sense distress around them due to something called emotional contagion when they respond to human emotions without fully understanding them. Dogs can also translate your facial expressions and body language so they know you’re upset or crying.
Do Dogs Make Tears When They Cry?
No, dogs don’t make tears when they cry. Contrary to humans, dogs don’t make a flow of tears to indicate their sadness. Dogs have tear ducts to help keep their eyes functioning properly. However, instead of spilling out, a dog’s tear ducts drain the liquid back towards the throat and nose area.
Do Dogs Cry?
Yes, dogs cry but in a different way than humans. They feel hurt and sad in a way but they don’t translate these emotions to tears as humans do. Instead, they translate this sadness to vocalizations like whines or whimpers, or actions like lack of exercise and refusing food and treats.
Your Dog Knows When You’re Upset, and Wants to Help
Do Dogs Know When You’re Sad? 5 Ways Your Dog Senses your Mood
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