Sometimes it feels like my dog can read my mind. He knows when we are heading out for a walk … he knows when I need a cuddle.
Dogs can read body language.
Dogs have been domesticated for centuries, and have been bred to be companions, hunters, guard dogs etc. They have learned behaviours over time that allow them to use visual cues, sounds and their incredible sense of smell to interpret our cues – both knowing and unknowing cues. For instance we can point, gesture or just look at the front door and they know that means a walk is about to occur. They can hear or smell you putting on your running shoes and they immediately get excited and head to the door.
Dogs have an incredible sense of smell that makes it seem like they know things we don’t.
Actually, using their 220 million sensors in their nose, they can sniff out things that we have no clue about, since we only have 5 million sensors for smell in our noses. Dogs have been used to sniff out low blood sugar in diabetics, and provide assistance / support to their diabetic carers. They can smell a cat walking past the front door and that’s why they launch into a crazed round of barking, or will know the difference in car smells to identify their owner over a visitor.
Does it often feel like your dog senses your emotions?
Research published in 2018 set out to explore the emotional connection with our dogs. A quite lengthy set of experiments determined that dogs could associate sounds and visual clues to determine emotion. A happy sound with a smiling face resulted in a happy dog with tail wags etc. An angry face with intense sounds caused dogs to cower. Even deeper emotional determinations were made with dogs that had longer associations with their owners, giving rise to the logical theory that the dogs cognitive abilities were strong and in use.
Can my dog sense my level of stress?
Yes indeed. A Swedish study in 2019 determined dogs feel your stress, and are greatly influenced by their owners and not the other way around. So in effect they are mirroring our stress levels. If you are scared then your dog will sense this and try to protect you by barking and chasing away the threat. If you are sad your dog will want to support you and be emotionally close.