Can Dogs Feel our Pain?

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. October 16, 2016
Can Dogs Feel our Pain?

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If you've got a dog, you'll probably have noticed at some point that your dog has felt your pain and tried to console you.

Some people claim that dogs can feel the pain of humans, while others state that dogs can only feel the pain of their owners as a result of the special emotional bond shared between them. Whatever your opinion, what we can say for sure is that dogs are social animals that understand and empathize with those around them.

In this AnimalWised article, we will assess if it's true that dogs can feel our pain from a scientific perspective.

Dogs can differentiate between emotions

According to a 2012 study carried out by a group of psychologists at Goldsmiths, University of London, dogs are capable of distinguishing crying from a range of other moods. Furthermore, they try to comfort the upset person regardless of whether it's their owner or someone else. Their ability to empathize surpasses that of many of our fellow human beings.

You must understand that we humans are constantly exposed to a myriad of emotions, not only in real life but also from advertising, media feeds and the news. We're so used to feeling a wide variety of things constantly that we sometimes struggle to comprehend how a dog reacts in such a pure and sentimental way. Seeing the tears of an upset person can cause quite a strong emotional shock for them.

Can Dogs Feel our Pain? - Dogs can differentiate between emotions

Confirmed: Dogs can feel our pain and try to console us

The study by this group of psychologists, led by Deborah Custance and Jennifer Mayer, consisted exactly of subjecting 18 dogs of different breeds to three different emotions, expressed by different people. The three emotions were:

  • Talking
  • Humming
  • Crying

One good way to see if the dogs reacted in the same way - or similarly - as they had done when seeing someone crying was to encourage the people to hum, sing or make strange noises. However, this wasn't the case.

They were indifferent when presented with the first emotion, speaking. They showed curiosity, nervousness and excitement when the people started to hum. Finally, the dogs felt huge empathy when the people cried, which resulted in sadness. They approached them submissively and seeked physical contact to somehow alleviate the sadness they saw before them.

The experiment revealed that yes, dogs feel the pain of humans.

Can Dogs Feel our Pain? - Confirmed: Dogs can feel our pain and try to console us

Can we feel our pet's pain?

Just as we're excited at the thought of our pet understanding us, we too should be able to understand them. To do this, especially if we don't know our pet too well, it will be a good idea to keep a close eye on them to know if they are eating, playing, sleeping and reacting normally or not. If you understand your dog, you'll be able to quickly spot a symptom of discomfort or sadness.

Don't forget that dogs can also suffer from depression or mental health problems. If you see that your dog is sad it can be a good idea to try and improve its daily life with games and activities so that you learn to understand each other better.

A good way to improve the relationship between dogs and humans is through dog training, and canine obedience training in particular. You should know that dogs are social animals that will have a great time learning new tricks whenever they are rewarded through the technique known as positive reinforcement.

Can Dogs Feel our Pain? - Can we feel our pet's pain?

If you want to read similar articles to Can Dogs Feel our Pain?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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my husband's dog is showing symptoms of depression and stopped eating. I believe it's due to my husband having severe foot pain where he can't walk too well. Is this a normal behavior for a dog to behave under these circumstances?
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