Jane Goodall’s famous work with chimpanzees established that animals are sentient, which means they have the capacity to feel. They feel fear, pain, joy, grief, frustration and much more. We also know they have the ability to relate to our (human) feelings; that ability is empathy.
Pet Parent Question: “I think my dog understands when I am sad about something, especially if I cry. Does he really know I am sad?”
Yes, your dog does know you are feeling sad. Recent studies have determined dogs have the ability to feel empathy for each other and for humans. The more you bond with your dog, the more your dog may express empathy toward you in specific situations. It can be wonderful to share your feelings with your dog. The most important thing is to respect the fact that your dog has the capacity to feel many different feelings. Dogs are sentient beings, and not objects.
Donna Chicone is an award-winning author, TEDx speaker and advocate for dogs. She is a devoted pet parent to her two Portuguese water dogs, Jazz and Jive, and is an advocate for the humane treatment of animals. She lives in Woodbury with her husband. When she is not writing or speaking about dogs, you will find her engaged in pet-assisted therapy work and K9 Nosework with her dogs.