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Do Dogs Experience Human Emotions?

Updated on August 16, 2013

Saint Francis of Assisi

Patron Saint of Animals
Patron Saint of Animals

Do Dogs Possess a Soul?

St. Francis of Assisi, The Patron Saint of Animals, believed that they did.

"He believed that nature itself was the mirror of God. He called all creatures his “brothers” and “sisters,” and even preached to the birds and supposedly persuaded a wolf to stop attacking some locals if they agreed to feed the wolf" (Encyclopedia Britannica).

It has been argued that no one in history was as dedicated as Francis to imitate the life, and carry out the work of Christ, in Christ’s own way.

Dog Food Anyone?

Visualize for a moment that you are traveling in Vietnam, and are sitting in a Vietnamese Restaurant anticipating what you might order for your dinner. You are presented with a menu and find an expensive item listed as "Thit cho." Not knowing whether or not to try something new, you point to the featured item and hope that your waiter understands that you are inquiring as to what exactly the item is. When the Vietnamese waiter becomes flustered at not being able to speak English well enough to clarify what this item is, he makes a barking sound.

For a moment, you don't understand and think maybe the waiter doesn't understand that you are asking about the menu item, but then, the waiter barks again, a little more animated this time, and it becomes clear what the item on the menu actually is. Yes, OMG! It meat.

Thit cho, is served in better restaurants in Vietnam, and, yes, it's an expensive dish. In Vietnam, dog meat is proudly displayed in the marketplaces for sale, and is an important component of Vietnamese culture. But, for most of us, this is the stuff nightmares are made of. If you've ever been a dog parent, then you know, you could no sooner eat your own child.

Dogs communicate their emotions with us like human animals, bond with us like human animals, and become our trusted, beloved, faithful companions.

Pit Bull Puppies...Precious!
Pit Bull Puppies...Precious!

Dog Fight Anyone?

Visualize for a moment the innocence of a newborn puppy. Now visualize that same sweet puppy being starved, beaten, isolated, and drugged in order to make him a money making "Fighter."

Dog Fighting, a blood sport where dogs are bred and trained to fight to the death, has been a part of many cultures since the dawn of civilization. Now outlawed in all first world countries, and even in most third world countries, dog fighting is still a huge part of criminal activity including gang activity, drug dealing, and illegal firearm sales.

Bait dogs are a whole other issue. Bait dogs are used to test the fighter dogs. Bait dogs have their muzzles taped shut with duct tape so they can't cause any damage to the prized fighter dog, and then put into a pit to be mauled to death by the fighter dog. Bait dogs are often dogs that have been picked up off the street, stolen, taken from shelters, or procured from "free to good home" ads in the paper.

There are those who would say, "What's the big deal? Dogs are just dumb animals, no different then the cattle and hogs we use for meat. Animals don't have emotions or souls, so it doesn't matter what we use them for."

I believe, as many do, that dogs not only have souls, but that they experience the same complex emotions that human animals do.

Do You Believe Dogs Have Emotions?

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The Eyes Have It!

Good Boy!
Good Boy! | Source

Dogs are Lovers, Not Fighters

If a dog, naturally endowed with a benevolent nature, can be "conditioned" to become a brutal fighter, then there would have to be emotions available for manipulation. Yes, instinct, just as with human animals, would play a part in the transformation of a dog's demeanor, but emotions of fear, anger, sadness, stress, panic, and others, would certainly lay the foundation for such a complete change.

On the other hand, if a mistreated, abused, conditioned dog can be taken into a loving, compassionate environment, and experience a complete reversal of a brutal demeanor back to his natural benevolent demeanor, then there is more there then instinct alone.

Pit Bulls and Parolees is a program featured on Animal Planet that illustrates this beautifully!

"Pit bulls actually were once ranked among American's top five favorite pets and were also known as the "nanny dog" for their gentleness with children. But they have fallen from grace. Now often associated with gang members, dog fighting and attacks, pit bulls are misunderstood, misjudged and under-appreciated."

Love and Affection

Sweet Display of Affection from this Beautiful Dog!
Sweet Display of Affection from this Beautiful Dog! | Source

Shame and Remorse...Of Course!

"I'm sorry"
"I'm sorry"

I'm Afraid

Fear or Panic Here!
Fear or Panic Here!

Scientific Studies Show Proof!

Many still disagree, even dog owners, as to whether or not dogs have real emotions, or, are merely reacting to and reflecting our emotions.

Along with scientific studies, but most importantly as a long time dog parent, I believe without any reservation that, of course, dogs have a soul, and that dogs do possess the full gamut of both basic and complex emotions.

Basic emotions cover a general range of emotion that are easy to read in both the human and dog animals. Body language, facial expression, and especially eye expression reveal both dog and human emotion.

Basic Emotions:

  • Love and Affection
  • Happiness and Pleasure
  • Excitement and Elation
  • Courage and Trust
  • Calm and Content
  • Interest and Surprise
  • Fear and Anxiety
  • Shame and Embarrassment
  • Anger and Irritation
  • Sadness and Despair

Again, scientific studies substantiate that the complex emotions, such as grief, jealousy, empathy, friendliness, playfulness, and many more, are also as much a part of the fabric of a dog's heart and soul, as it is in human animals.

The newest of these studies was conducted by the Department of Animal Science and Biotechnology, Azabu University, 1-17-71 Fuchinobe, Chuoh-ku, Sagamihara, 252-5201 Kanagawa-ken, Japan, and the findings were as follows:

"The dog is the species with the closest relationship to humans; dogs can express strong social emotions (e.g., attachment and separation anxiety) to specific persons, such as their owners. In this study, we examined whether dogs demonstrate more facial laterality when reunited with their owners than when they encounter an unfamiliar person in an unfamiliar situation. We also examined whether the observed laterality was specific to positive social stimuli (i.e., the owner) or a general response to nonsocial positive stimuli (i.e., toys). The dogs’ facial expressions were recorded by a high-speed video camera during the presentation of emotional stimuli and the acceleration rates of parts of their faces were analyzed. The results showed that the left eyebrow moved more when the owner was present than at baseline. No bias in terms of eyebrow movement was observed when the dogs saw attractive toys. These results suggest that dogs show facial laterality in response to emotional stimuli."

For the full PDF report, use this link:

Sweet Roxie Jane

"I Love You!"
"I Love You!" | Source

Scientific "Schmientific!"

While scientific findings are great for substantiating evidence, all the substantiation I need comes in the form of tail wags, hand licks, and the all out jubilation that occurs when I open my door at the end of the day, or after being gone for only an hour.

My fur baby, Roxie Jane, has expressed more affection for me than most people ever experience from human animals.

If you are a "Dog Parent," you have experienced unconditional love and devotion from a pure and innocent being.

My Roxie Jane meets me at the door with a wagging tail and a smile, yes she smiles, telling me she is happy to see me and that she missed me while I was gone. When I'm not feeling well, she comes into my room and lies beside my bed, giving me support with her presence. When I'm listening to music and dancing around the house, she jumps around me and joins the fun. When she wants my affection, she nuzzles my hand and asks for it sweetly. When someone comes to the door, she goes into "Protect" mode, and barks ferociously at whoever might be there to cause me harm.

Roxie Jane is my companion who never judges me, doesn't care if I look a mess, is always eager to share a meal with me, always waits patiently for me, and is always happy to see me and share time with me.

Like "Dog Parents" everywhere, I know I have been exceedingly blessed to have my fur baby, my sweet companion, and my best friend as one of the best parts of my life!


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    • Pamela Mae Oliver profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Mae Oliver 

      7 years ago from Georgia

      Thank you for reading my Hubpage! I can highly recommend getting a "Furry Friend!"

    • Kathy Turner Hale profile image

      Kathy Turner Hale 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for the Hub! Makes me want to get a furry friend!

    • Pamela Mae Oliver profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Mae Oliver 

      7 years ago from Georgia

      Thank you Rachel for sharing your wonderful story of your "Fur Family." Neecho, Jed, and Sophie have a very blessed life with a parent who knows she's blessed!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Dogs, are truly man or woman's best friends. There's not a doubt in my mind that ALL my fur babies have loved me with all their hearts, as I've loved them. Baby, Neecho, Jed, Sophie. All of them love or loved me. Feeling bad-their there, feeling happy-their there, coming home-their waiting on me, going to bed-they know they get tucked in. They are my protectors, my guardians, my friends, my mind-readers sometimes before I even know it.

      Baby, was my 1st dog when I was 8yrs old, but found her real calling, being my Grandmother's shadow. She was her protector, companion, and best friend. Baby went to heaven with Grandmother when I was 22 years old. She lived a long life, and served the best purpose she could have, in her time here; a true best friend.

      Neecho, is my right hand man. Silly, smart as a whip, and is most definitely a momma's boy. And loves people, as long as I say it's ok. Then everyone has to be told, "he's giving you a hug", yes, Neecho actually hugs people to greet them. This not something I taught him, he done it on his own. It's precious. And I can make him turn back flips for a ball. But, that's another story in itself.

      Sophie, is my 1 1/2 year old. She's smart, funny, and still coming into her own. She's in her crazy teenage years still! She's so much like Neecho, like he was as a puppy, it's not funny. Her manuerisms are nearly identical to Neecho's.

      Jed, is my left hand man, he's 13 years old. He is the most gentle and kindest soul, I've ever known. And he nearly died of a broken heart. Literally nearly grieved himself to death, when he lost his master and his woman in the same day. I felt Jed's pain just looking at him for weeks. I felt powerless at times, just to get a tail wag. But, with effort, lots of love and attention, Jed is an old man, but has the best life he's ever had with me.

      Did I mention Jed is Neecho's and Sophie's daddy? He is. I couldn't bust them 3 up for nothing. So I have 3-fur babies. Neecho and Jed are like 2-peas in a pod. Eek and meek. They react off of each other. Both of them wake me up in the mornings, with kisses and wagging tails. Them 2 are best friends. They're my best friends. No, I don't have any children of my own. And my fur-family suites me just fine.

    • Pamela Mae Oliver profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Mae Oliver 

      7 years ago from Georgia

      Thank you for your sweet story of little Poncho. I do think we love our dogs just as if they were our children. But, also, they are our most special, trusted best friend. I know it was hard to let Poncho go, but he isn't sick anymore, and I'm sure he is keeping Heaven lively!

    • profile image

      Loretta Castleber 

      7 years ago

      To me Dogs are God's special gift to humankind.My little chihauhau ,Poncho got very ill with Cushings disease.By the time I knew what the disease was it was too late to help him.It is an illness that has to be diagnosed early .He went to heaven on April 25th of this year.My heart still aches for him,I have his son with me and love him dearly,but Poncho and I had a special bond.He learned to tell me he loved me and I knew he meant it.He was a very special little fella and I know without a doubt he is keeping my Mom company,she grew to love him also before she passed away.And of course dogs experience the same emotions we do,I have witnessed that first hand .

    • Pamela Mae Oliver profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Mae Oliver 

      7 years ago from Georgia

      Than you so much for your vote and your interesting comment. Yes, I have had two pets at a time and they do get very jealous of each other. I've had both pets try and nuzzle the same hand, even though I was petting them both at the same time with two different hands. They are blessings!

    • Mel Jay profile image

      Mel Jay 

      7 years ago from Australia

      Thank you for the lovely pictures - dogs are extremely emotional, one things I have noticed about dogs is that just like small children, when you have two of them, one gets jealous when you give attention to the other. Up and interesting from me - Cheers, Mel

    • Pamela Mae Oliver profile imageAUTHOR

      Pamela Mae Oliver 

      7 years ago from Georgia

      I would love to read your thoughts on this subject. And, if you have a Dog Tale to share, I would love to read that too!


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