Do Dogs Know When We Are Sad?

Today I googled the question, “Do dogs know when we are sad?” The answers I found varied by what experiments were conducted in the studies. gave me the answer that most closely confirmed my opinion. Dogs do show signs of recognizing sadness in us. In a study where they had the subject crying, the dog often approached in a submissive manor and/or licked the crying human. Then they tested what would happen if it was just a person humming. The dog also approached. Hmm, Is that dog just coming closer out of curiosity? A crying human and a humming human in the same vicinity, the dogs more often went to the crying one. This study cannot definitively declare dogs to have empathy, but it does show that dogs tend to gravitate towards humans exhibiting sadness.

Without even googling this question, I had my own opinion based on my experience. Our pets do know when we are sad or ill or just need a little pick me up. I can remember countless times when my kids were sick in bed under the covers as I took their temperature with a thermometer. There at the foot of the bed always sat Nurse Kitty. Or I think of years ago when my sixth grade daughter was crying in her new bedroom, missing her friends she had to say goodbye to back in Texas. Right on her lap sat Kitty offering her comfort and love. Then just one year ago when Dot passed away, when our hearts were breaking, Kitty came around more often, followed us around and found her way into my arms whenever I was having a tough time. This week, with Kitty gone, I crave the silky smooth touch of her soft coat and am trying to deal with her absence.

Coping with this loss has not been easy. Different times stab more painfully. My son left his bedroom door ajar like he always has so that Kitty can get in an out during the night. I saw that and remembered this no longer necessary habit. Then this afternoon I was going into the garage and quickly shut the door behind me so that Kitty wouldn’t race out. I do not have to do that anymore. Probably the hardest moment was crawling into my bed and pulling the white down comforter up to my chest and not feeling the weight of Kitty on my chest as I read in bed. No grey and black haired cat staring at me as I read in bed. I know in time that these moments will change from pangs of grief to simply fond memories. But right now I feel sad.

My sadness is recognized by Koda and Summer. Both puppies have been extremely cuddly with me in the past few days. They are still rambunctious and energetic, but they have also snuggled up on the sofa at my side, nuzzling their soft furry heads into my lap. They may not understand the grief that is heavy on my heart, but they definitely know the comforting I need. Koda and Summer also have a way of bringing a smile to my face.


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