Do Dogs Cry?
Studies have shown that dogs do in fact experience emotions, even if it is not in quite the same way that humans do. Dogs are capable of empathy and they also experience joy, fear, disgust, and anger, though more complex emotions like guilt or shame are not within their range.
If dogs can experience emotions that we consider human, what else are they capable of? One thing dog owners often find themselves asking is whether dogs cry. Keep reading to find out.
Related: What Emotions Do Dogs Actually Experience?
What is the Dog Equivalent of Crying?
When you get sad, crying is a normal human response. While dogs do have tear ducts, they don’t typically cry in the same way that humans do – humans are the only species that produces tears in response to emotion. Just because your dog doesn’t actually shed tears when he’s sad doesn’t mean, however, that he isn’t capable of experiencing sadness. In dogs, sadness is often a reaction to a change in routine or environment – it can also be accompanied by stress or anxiety.
So, how do dogs express their sadness? One of the most common ways for a dog to express sadness is through whining or whimpering. These vocalizations may also be accompanied by mopey behavior, low energy, refusing food or treats, and changes in sleep habits or behavior. In many cases, changes in behavior are the only way your dog will let you know when something is wrong so it’s important to pay attention and take notice when something seems off.
Related: Do Dogs Feel Empathy?
Can Crying Become a Problem Behavior?
While your dog may not be able to directly communicate his needs or desires, he learns over time how to get what he wants. For many dogs, whining or whimpering is a learned behavior and, as a dog owner, you may be unwittingly encouraging it. If you respond to your dog’s whines with cooing, petting, and treats, he’s going to learn that whining him gets what he wants and he’s going to keep doing it. Depending how long it takes you to realize what’s really going on, this could become a habit that is difficult to break. The only thing you can really do is not give your dog what he wants when he is whining so he eventually learns not to do it.
If your dog is whining or crying on a regular basis, you should take the time to make sure it isn’t for a good reason. While dogs have a natural instinct to hide their pain, if things get bad enough your dog might not be able to help it. If whining is accompanied by other changes in behavior, you should check for signs of illness or injury and consult your veterinarian if needed. Keep in mind that whining can also be a sign of age-related cognitive decline in older dogs, especially when it happens at night.
Sometimes it can be difficult to understand a dog’s behavior, but most of the time when your dog does something there is a reason for it. If your dog is crying on a regular basis, don’t play it off as an annoying behavioral trait – take the time to look into it and make sure there’s nothing wrong under the surface.
Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.
More by Kate Barrington