You’ve probably seen those videos where dogs react to human facial expressions.
Some dogs wag their tails when they see happy human faces and might look guilty when they spot angry ones.
It makes you wonder, “Can dogs really tell if we’re mad at them?”
Many experts believe that dogs sense our emotions by reading our facial cues. The tiniest raised eyebrows or the smallest smile can give away our feelings to our furry friends.
So, next time you think your dog doesn’t notice how you’re feeling, think again! They’re more tuned into your emotions than you give them credit for.
Dogs are Aware of Our Emotional States
You know how sometimes you read someone’s feelings just by looking at their face?
Dogs do that with us, too!
When dog owners have happy faces, their pups can totally see that and feel the joy.
On the other hand, if we put our angry faces on, our dogs will know something’s up and that it’s best to give us some space.
It’s not just our faces that betray emotional clues—our voices play a significant part, too.
When we’re scared or sad, the way we talk changes. Our dogs pick up on these changes in our tone and pitch.
Our smell can also give away our various emotional states.
So, if you thought you could hide your feelings from your dog, think again. They’re always one step ahead!
3 Signs Your Dog is Aware of Your Anger
Sweet Puppy Dog Eyes
Ever walked into a room, and your dog gave you those big, sweet puppy dog eyes?
It’s as if they’re saying, “I’m sorry, please don’t be mad!”
This look is one of the unmistakable signs your dog knows something’s up.
Whining and Crying
This isn’t the usual “I want a treat” whine.
It’s more like, “Uh-oh, did I do something wrong?” kind of sound.
They might even do a head tilt as if they’re trying to figure out what’s happening or asking, “Why are you upset?”
Avoiding Eye Contact
Sometimes, if a dog thinks they’ve done something to upset you, they’ll look anywhere but into your eyes.
This submissive behavior says, “I respect you, and I know I messed up.”
And, if they made a mess, like chewing up your favorite shoes or spreading trash all around, they might also avoid looking at it.
They’re thinking, “If I don’t look at it, will it magically go away?”
Should I Feel Bad for Being Mad at My Dog?
We’ve all been there. After a long day, you come home to find your dog chewed up your favorite shoes.
You get mad and raise your voice a bit.
Since you can’t be mad at your furry friend forever, the inevitable question arises, “Should I feel bad for getting angry with my dog?”
Dogs and humans react differently to situations. While admonishing your dog when they do something wrong (like the shoe-chewing scenario) is essential, expressing your frustrations is also okay.
Dogs are quick learners and sometimes need to know that certain behaviors are unacceptable.
However, do not stay mad at your dog for too long.
Dogs live in the moment and won’t understand why you’re still upset hours after the incident.
It’s all about balance. Let your dog know they did something wrong, but always go back to being loving and understanding once the point is made.
After all, they’re our best buddies!
Do Dogs Remember When We Get Mad at Them?
Dogs have a different sense of time than ours.
While they might not remember specific events like humans can, they are fantastic at picking up patterns and associating actions with outcomes.
For example, if they get a time-out every time they chew on the couch, they’ll link the behavior with the consequence.
However, dogs excel at emotional intelligence.
If you get mad at your dog, they will sense the change in your mood through your body language, tone of voice, and even your scent.
Even if they might not remember the exact reason you were mad, they will remember the feeling of you being upset with them.
Fortunately, while dogs feel a range of different emotions, they don’t hold grudges. If you get mad but then return to being loving and caring, your dog will quickly move on and be their usual loving self.
Can Dogs Be Mad at Humans?
We’ve all seen those videos of dogs tearing up pillows or giving the cold shoulder after a vet visit, but is that really “anger,” as we understand it?
Dogs experience a wide gamut of feelings. They can be happy, excited, anxious, scared, and even frustrated.
But their emotions don’t precisely mirror human ones.
When a dog seems “mad,” it might be more about them feeling frustrated or scared.
For instance, when a dog chews up your favorite shoes, it’s not out of spite or anger. They might be bored, anxious, or just found those shoes interesting to chew on.
If they avoid you after a bath or a vet visit, it’s not because they hold a grudge. They may feel uncertain or stressed from the experience.
It’s also important to remember that dogs are acutely tuned into human emotions.
If you’re upset, they can pick up on that. If they act differently, it could be a response to your emotions and not them being “mad” at you.
What’s vital for dog owners to know is that positive reinforcement is the correct answer.
Yelling or punishing a dog doesn’t help them understand what they did wrong. Instead, rewarding them for good behavior helps them learn what’s appropriate.
5 Ways to Manage Your Anger Toward Your Dog
Managing your anger doesn’t mean you’re a terrible dog owner.
It means you’re human!
By healthily addressing your emotions, you’re ensuring a loving, positive relationship with your canine companion.
Take a Breather
If you feel yourself getting snappy, step away for a moment.
Go to another room, take deep breaths, or walk outside for a few minutes.
Give yourself a chance to calm down and consider how to address the situation.
Understand the Why
Dogs don’t do things to make us angry on purpose. If they’re acting out, there’s got to be a reason.
Maybe they’re bored, anxious, or feeling unwell. Understanding the reason will help you address the root cause of the behavior.
Train With Positivity
Positive reinforcement works wonders!
Instead of focusing on what your dog did wrong, reward them for what they do right.
This way, they’ll be more likely to repeat the positive behavior.
Seek Expert Advice
If you’re having ongoing issues, contact professional dog trainers. They will provide guidance and solutions you might have yet to think of.
Remember the Good Times
When you’re mad, think about all the fun and happy moments you’ve shared with your dog. It will help put things into perspective and remind you of your bond.
Don’t Dwell on Negative Emotions Toward Your Pup
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- Hecht, Julie. “When We’re Angry, Dogs Get the Feels.” Scientific American Blog Network, Scientific American, 28 Nov. 2017, blogs.scientificamerican.com/dog-spies/when-were-angry-dogs-get-the-feels/. Accessed 10 Oct. 2023.
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- McCormick, Katherine. “Can Dogs Tell When You’re Mad at Them?” Wag!, Wag!, 6 Apr. 2018, wagwalking.com/sense/can-dogs-tell-when-youre-mad-at-them. Accessed 10 Oct. 2023.
- Saplakoglu, Yasemin. “Your Dog Knows When You’re Upset, and Wants to Help.” LiveScience, Purch, 24 July 2018, www.livescience.com/63144-dogs-want-to-help-upset-humans.html. Accessed 10 Oct. 2023.