As veterinarians, we often get asked a lot of questions about dog behavior and whether dogs can read our emotions. The answer is yes, dogs can definitely pick up on a wide range of human emotions as well as respond to them. In fact, dogs are highly attuned to our emotional states and can recognize and respond to our body language, smell, tone of voice, and facial expressions.

In this blog post, we'll explore how dogs are able to read our emotions, the science behind it, and how it impacts our relationships with our furry friends.

How Do Dogs Read Our Emotions?

Dogs can read our emotions through a variety of cues, including:

Body Language

Dogs are experts at reading body language, and they can pick up on even the subtlest of changes in our posture, facial expressions, and movements. For example, a furrowed brow or tensed muscles can signal to a dog that we are feeling anxious or upset.

Tone of Voice

Dogs are also highly sensitive to our tone of voice, and they can distinguish between different vocal cues to understand how we are feeling. For example, a soothing tone can indicate that we are feeling calm and happy, while a harsh tone can signal anger or frustration.


Dogs have a highly developed sense of smell and can pick up on changes in our body odor that may be associated with different emotions, such as fear or excitement.


Dogs are also capable of empathy, which means they can sense and respond to our emotional states in a way that is similar to humans. For example, if we are feeling sad or upset, our dog may come over and cuddle with us to offer comfort. Dogs can also sense when their humans are in physical pain.

The Science Behind Dogs and Human Emotions

While we can’t know for sure if dogs can feel human emotions, the ability of dogs to read our emotions is rooted in their evolution and their close relationship with humans. Studies have shown that dogs have similar brain structures and processes as humans when it comes to emotions, including the production of oxytocin, a hormone associated with bonding and social attachment.

Additionally, over time, dogs have developed learned behavior from their pet parents, such as prolonged eye contact as a sign of love and affection. 

In one study, researchers found that dogs were able to distinguish between happy and angry facial expressions in humans, and that they responded more positively to happy faces. Another study found that dogs were able to differentiate between different emotional sounds in human speech, such as crying and laughter.

The Human-Dog Bond

The fact that dogs can read our emotions and respond to them in different ways only serves to strengthen our bonds with these amazing pets. Through this close bond with their humans, dogs can communicate with us in a more meaningful way and even show understanding and empathy.

For example, if we are feeling anxious or stressed, our dog may pick up on our emotional cues and offer comfort and support. Similarly, if our dog is feeling anxious or fearful, we can use our body language and tone of voice to communicate reassurance and help them feel more secure. To learn more about the special bond between you and your dog, take our Pet Love Language Quiz

BetterVet Helps Reduce Stress for Pets and Their Humans

BetterVet’s in-home vet care model means that pets and their parents can stay calmer and more comfortable at home. Accessing vet care at home can lead to happier, healthier pets and a less stressful experience for everyone involved.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do dogs understand human emotions?

While it is difficult to assess whether dogs can understand human emotions, we do know that they can recognize a wide range of human emotions and reactions and can respond with empathy.

Can dogs sense when we are sad?  

Yes, dogs can sense when we are sad through a variety of cues, including our body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions. They show concern by approaching humans to offer comfort and cuddles.

Can dogs sense when we are happy?

Yes, dogs can also sense when we are happy through our body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions. They may respond with tail wagging, playful behavior, and vocalizations.

Can dogs sense when we are angry?

We’ve all seen dogs on the internet feeling guilty or worried after getting caught doing something naughty. Like our other emotions, dogs also know when we are angry through our body language and tone of voice. They may respond through submission, cowering, or avoidance.

Can dogs sense when we are afraid?

Yes, dogs are also attuned to when we feel afraid, reading cues such as body language, tone of voice, and changes in our body odor. They may become protective or offer comfort and support in response.

Are some dog breeds sensitive to human emotions?

While we can’t know for sure if certain dog breeds are more sensitive to human emotions than others are, we do know that certain breeds are particularly good at providing emotional support to their humans, such as Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and Great Danes, to name a few.