Do Dogs Know When You Are Sad

do dogs know when you are sad

Dogs have been known to be man’s best friend for ages. They are loyal, protective, and loving towards their owners, and they strangely manage to show up every time the blues start coming around—but do dogs actually know when you are sad?

There is evidence to show that dogs can tell when a person is sad. During a study, dogs were more willing to go to a person that was crying, even a stranger, rather than a person that was humming. Most of these dogs would walk towards the crying person with a submissive or empathetic posture.

With this information, it is really no question that your dog can be your best pal and help you through all of the rough times! Throughout this article, we will go more in-depth about how your dog knows when you are sad and how it affects them.


Do Dogs Know When You Are Sad?

Have you ever had a not-so-good day where you could feel the tears coming on at any minute and your dog will not let you leave its sight? This has likely happened to most dog owners at least a couple of times. 

As discussed above, there is some evidence from a recent study that suggests dogs can sense when a person is sad. This can be their owner or even a complete stranger. During the study, the dogs’ behaviors were observed around a crying person and a humming person. Most of the dogs went to the crying person with their head downs and tails tucked under their bottoms, which may be a sign that dogs actually have empathy. 

Even though it has not been conclusively proven, it would make sense that dogs have empathy since they try to comfort and make things better for people that are sad. 

Another study also showed that dogs were able to clearly distinguish between a smiling face and ones which showed anger or sadness. I detailed this in another post called “Can Dogs Sense Bad People” use the link to check it out.

Most researchers say that dogs likely have the intelligence of a human toddler. They can remember certain words or cues, and even understand when you point them to go in a certain direction. So, not only do dogs know when you are sad, but they can also understand you when you speak, which is incredible!

do dogs know when you are sad

How Do Dogs Know When You Are Sad?

Dogs are obviously very intelligent and loving creatures. We now know that they can tell when you are sad, but exactly how do they know when you are sad?

Studies suggest that dogs can sense that a person is sad in a few different ways:

  • Your tone of voice- A study has shown that dogs have areas in their brains, known as “voice areas,” that are very similar to the “voice areas” in human brains. This means that dog’s brains can understand emotion by the tone of a person’s voice, just like humans can.
  • Your body language- Dogs will notice the way you walk, move around, and sit. If your posture looks a little depressing, it is likely that your dog is picking up some sad vibes. You may see this behavior during a walk. Dogs will often walk behind you when they sense you are struggling, this mainly revolves around a sense of protection for you but that most likely involves some sort of empathetic thought process. I expand on this subject in a post called “Why Does My Dog Walk Behind Me”.
  • Your facial expressions- Your dog will notice the way your face changes as you feel different emotions. When you walk through the door smiling, your dog will likely jump on you or run around your legs. If there is a mess when you get inside, your dog will quickly notice your facial expression and turn towards submissive behavior, like hanging its head. As mentioned previously this was the subject of a study, which I expand on in this article ” Can Dogs Sense Bad People”.
  • Your scent- It is believed that dogs can actually smell the sadness on you. Their amazing ability to smell may help them notice biochemical changes inside your body that directly affect your mood. If you’re not familiar with just how amazing a dog’s sense of smell is then check out these articles where I go more in-depth about how dogs smell, what they can smell, and what makes them so good at it. The first article is “How Long Can A Dog Follow A Scent” and “Why Does My Dog Smell Everything On A Walk”.

So, even if you are trying to hide your sadness from your puppy pal, you probably aren’t fooling them! 

What Do Dogs Do When You Are Sad?

Now that we know it is not all in our heads and that our dogs do now when we are feeling sad, what are some of the things that dogs do when their owner, or anyone else for that matter, is sad?

Dogs can do several different things when a person is sad to try and comfort that person. The behavior will vary depending on the dog and ultimately the relationship between the human and the dog. 

Here are some things that dogs do when they know you are sad:

  • Touch- One of the things that some dogs do when a person is sad is touching them. Some dogs may sit in your lap, while others may lean against your legs or place a paw on your knee. 
  • Distract- Some dogs may notice that their owner is getting sad and will begin to put toys in their laps or do anything silly to help distract the owner from whatever is causing the sadness. 
  • Create Distance- Sometimes, a dog will notice its owner’s behavior and decide that it is best to leave the room for a bit until the mood has changed.
  • Mirror Your Behavior- If you have had a sad day and it seems that your pup has too, then you may be the reason for that, unfortunately. When your dog senses that you are sad, it can sometimes lead it to copy your behavior. These behaviors can be loss of appetite and fatigue.

While these are only a few different things that dogs do when they know you are sad, every dog is different. Since your dog can sense your emotions, it is best to try to reassure them in any way possible when you are feeling down for the sake of your dog’s health.  

How Do Dogs Help People with Depression and Anxiety?

It has been known for a while that having a pet of any kind can help with depression and anxiety, but some people would argue that this is especially true for dogs. 

After reading the information above, it is no wonder that they are the perfect animals for the job. But how exactly do dogs help with depression and anxiety?

  • A dog can encourage routine. After having a dog for a couple of weeks, you may start to notice that it will try to wake you early on the days when you would like to sleep in. That is because your dog has become accustomed to eating at a regular time every day. It is important to keep this time daily as it helps to keep your best friend anxiety-free and healthy. Knowing this, you are likely to build a routine that is equally as good for humans. 
  • A dog is a perfect friend. Loneliness is one of the most common factors in people that have depression and anxiety. Your dog will never want to be away from you. Your dog can also give you someone to talk to about anything without judgment. You may end up looking a bit strange, mumbling to yourself on long walks with your dog but believe me it helps to organize all those thoughts. 
  • A dog will help you exercise. Lack of exercise is another common factor with people that have depression and anxiety. Dogs must go on walks to use the bathroom and to get out those bursts of energy we call the zoomies, check out this article “Why Does My Dog Go Crazy After A Walk” for more information on what the zoomies are and why it happens. Exercise allows you both to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air and do something productive that is great for your body. As someone who goes from exercising daily to not at all very often, I can 100% say that when I’ve gotten into a good exercise routine, I sleep better, think better, and tend to have more energy. 
  • A dog can help you meet people. It may seem strange that a dog could help you to meet new people but think about it: When you walk your dog, people will stop to talk to it and pet it and ask you questions. This will help you find people who have common interests with you, and socializing is one of the best medicines for depression and anxiety. establishing a good walking route will mean you tend to see the same people, again and again, building a relationship each time you see them. Even if this is on a stranger to stranger level it can still make you feel less lonely, and if they have a dog your pooch will have their own pal to play with.

This list is only a few ways that dogs can help with depression and anxiety. They truly are incredible animals!

Does My Dog Know When I’m Hurt

Similar to know if you are sad, dogs will tend to play off of your body language. If you crying then this is an obvious sign to your dog that something is wrong.

Your dog may not know specifically that you have stubbed your toe or banged your knee, but the will certainly react to your body language, facial cues, and the noises you make.

Depending on what you hurt and how you react your dog will most likely crowd around you, perhaps pacing up and down, trying to deal with the situation themselves. I know from stubbing my toe, my dog will start wagging his tail and breathing heavily as I make a loud noise and start hopping around. Panting suggests that he is finding it difficult to process what is happening and is anxious he cant help. Of course, the other reason is simply that he thinks I’m playing around my making funny noises, and hopping on one leg.

Either way, your dog will certainly know if you’re in pain just as much as they know that you are sad. It is simply because they learn that you make certain facial cues and body language cues that they will use to determine what you are feeling. They will also take this into other scenarios with other people, not just assume that you are the only one that makes these cues.


It is clear that dogs know when you are sad. They can tell by how you move, how you look, how you talk, and even how you smell.

Most dogs will likely want to touch you when they know you are sad, but some may decide that you need some space or a distraction. 

If you are looking for a loyal and loving friend that will benefit you in more ways than you can imagine, then a dog is something that you just might want to put on your wish list!

Dean Lissaman

As a child I grew up around dogs and have loved them ever since. I now have a beloved Golden Retriever who enjoys exploring the outside world. Being an outdoor enthusiast has inspired me to create the ultimate resource on relating both dogs and the outdoors. For more information on me check out my about page.

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