Do Dogs Have Feelings Too?
Updated: Aug 31
There she was, a little golden bundle of joy sprawled out on her two-month old little puppy belly looking up at me with huge brown eyes saying, “Pick me! Pick me! I am so cute and cuddly!” It was love at first sight when my friend showed me a little English Cocker Spaniel. Right then and there I knew I had to have her as my own puppy. I wanted her little expensive butt so bad that I scraped my savings to get her. When I took her home for the first time I could see her curious mind sniffing my apartment, smelling all the new smells and learning about her new environment, the boundaries, and the difference between inside and outside our home.
The first time I gave her bath she did not like the water at first, and her body behavior told me this. When I took her to the beach the first time she didn’t mind getting her paws wet, but it took another year before she would actually go into the water to swim. I remember that day when she tested the depths of the ocean floor finally reaching a point when she had to swim, and from there she just took off swimming, enjoying a new found exercise. After that she absolutely loved going to the beach to go swimming in the water, jumping and getting excited when she smelled the salty beach air. Then I started to throw a stick for her so she could crash over the little ocean waves to get it. Her courage at overcoming her little insecurities was getting big and then she started to get a little spoiled butt attitude whenever I would give her a dog treat, as if she was saying, “I’m ready for my treat NOW.” Oh yea, dogs can get an attitude with you just like little kids. Sometimes I often wondered, who is training who? Is she training me on tolerance and patience while I train her not to destroy the carpet when I am not at home? We had some trying times for sure.
I realized then that the more I got to know my dog then the more we were becoming an actual team forming a symbiotic “knowing” relationship that nobody else but another long-time dog owner and dog lover would understand.
So, if you don’t believe a dog has emotions, then this article is not for you especially if you have never owned or cared for a canine. They are a highly adaptive animal that has been domesticated for human workloads and companionship throughout the years. While some argue for the scientific in-humane, others will simply post videos on YouTube so you can see for yourself, the behavior a dog displays that warns you and gives you an inside look at what emotional level their mind is actually operating in. For example, I simply Googled and typed “dog happy” in the search box, clicked on the tab for videos and saw that the search results number was “about 145,000,000” with the majority of them from YouTube. Then I simply browsed through the numerous titles and landed on this one, “Dogs React to Being Adopted and Rescued: Happy Dog Compilation – The Dodo.” I watched the 8-minute clip published on YouTube and watched how each dog reacted to being rescued, the amazing happy spirit they displayed after recovering from in-humane treatment, and feeling many emotions myself.
How astonishing it is that we humans can be moved to help animals in need. Another title which caught my attention was, “How to Tell If Your Dog’s Happy (It Has Nothing To Do With His Tail) – The Dodo.” This video was actually very educational because there seems to be many more “happy dog” mannerisms that we humans may not be aware of. But the video also highlights that if you think your dog feels a certain way, then you are probably right. It’s like they’re telepathically telling us something, or that we just know our dogs so well that it becomes automatic.
There are many ways to ensure our dogs are happy and healthy such as interacting with people, children, other dogs and animals. This is called “socialization.” Another way is to introduce them to many social situations such as with the veterinarian and the Vet clinic. Also in a variety of environments such as sandy places, at a grassy park, around the neighborhood, noisy streets, and in the car going for car rides. But make sure all experiences are safe and positive so I recommend to include lots of praise and treats with each social encounter.
Other socialization techniques include exposing them to different noises and volume of the noise such as a simple car horn, police sirens from a distance, firecrackers at night, and musical instruments. You can also expose them to walking on different surfaces such as wood, gravel, grass, and other uneven areas. You can play hide and seek in different environments, jump over obstacles in a nearby park, play with a ball, and visit some dog-friendly cafes where there are other people and other dogs. If the puppy gets scared then you would need to slow down or stop the socialization experience. Move onto something else that makes the puppy feel more secure and then reward that behavior with something positive like a treat or a toy.
Socialization is important because if the dog gets scared then they can react by growling, biting or nipping. They may not trust the situation or the person. So, the kindest thing we can do for dogs is to help them extend their concept of “family” to encompass any and all friendly people they meet. The more people and places your puppy experiences, the more well-adjusted emotionally she´ll be as an adult because they have feelings too.