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When Dogs Sense Your Emotions: How To Survive Painful Times

“You could cut the tension with a knife.”

“There was something in the air that night…”

“The room was buzzing with excitement!”

Have you ever had an experience where you could sense the energy in the room right away?

Maybe you were the birthday girl who sensed there was a big “Surprise!!” coming the moment you stepped into the room.

Or maybe after you excused yourself from the dinner table for a few minutes you returned to a room thick with tension. 😳

It’s incredible how we can sense emotion and energy without anyone saying a word!

Humans aren’t the only beings with this uncanny ability. Dogs have it, too.

Let’s dive into how dogs can sense our emotions and how to make them at ease when you’re anything but.

Can dogs sense emotions?

You bet! No wonder we build such strong bonds with our pups. They are our companions, playmates, confidants, and friends.

Science has caught up to what we’ve known all along: Dogs sense our feelings and instinctively know when something is wrong.

As intuitive beings, they do this in a variety of ways:

  • They can read our facial expressions and the tone of our voices.

  • Dogs use hearing to sense our feelings and can distinguish between happy sounds and fearful or sad sounds.

  • They learn to associate certain emotions with the hormones you produce when you’re happy, sad, fearful, angry, or stressed.

  • They even smell the difference when you are sick with a virus or a bacterial infection. Some can even detect illnesses like cancer, diabetes, and malaria or when a person is about to have a seizure.

Can dogs sense depression and anxiety?

Absolutely! In fact, a new study showed that dogs not only sense our sadness, anxiety, and stress, but they’ll try to do something to help.

When dogs sense the sights, sounds, and smells of emotion, they respond to us.

Experts say dogs have the emotional intelligence of a toddler, so it’s not surprising that when dogs sense emotions they stay close to their human companion.

Researchers found that this empathetic behavior actually helps the dog feel better, too. When the situation begins to calm, dogs can sense it and return to their normal behavior.

In my work with animal clients and their humans, I see symbiotic emotions play out again and again. Often a pet parent will come into my store looking for a way to help their dog who’s been suffering with digestive problems. As we talk, they’ll often remark on how funny it is that this isn’t just happening to their pet, they’re suffering with the same ailments, too.

When you become aware that our pets are energy beings who are sensitive to the subtle energies we give off, you understand why this isn’t unusual at all!

Sometimes, dogs react in a way that mirrors their person’s moods. If they’re sensing negative energy, their behavior can reflect that. They can become fearful, nervous, or aggressive depending on their personality and past experiences.

Look for signs like:

  • Tucking the tail

  • Backing up

  • Hiding

  • Whining

  • Reluctance to go into an area

  • Raised hackles

  • Growling

  • Baring teeth

The first step to protecting your animal companion is becoming aware that your dog may pick up on your energy and even mirror your feelings and symptoms.

If dogs sense emotion, how can we help them when we’re upset?

When we’re sad, anxious, angry, or upset, the last thing we want is to upset our dog companions!

We know the truth all too well: Life is NOT a bowl of cherries.

It’s a part of the human experience to have negative emotions and negative energy. And it is our animal companion’s instinct to sense those emotions and want to be near us to comfort and soothe.

A dog senses your anxiety or depression, stress or anger, because they are energy beings themselves. They may smell it, feel it, hear it, or see it in your expressions.

Some dogs may be quite demonstrative in their support, cuddling with you and staying near. Others won’t show their concern outwardly but will internalize your feelings.

Dogs even pick up on feelings and emotions from their animal companions. My older dog took a nasty spill off our icy stairs and badly sprained his shoulder and wrist. Outwardly, my younger dog didn’t show any signs of being upset about her brother’s pain (and didn’t show any sympathy at all!), but after he came home from the vet, she threw up her dinner which she never does.

Here are five things you can do to help both you and your dog get through hard times.

Flower Essences

Flower essences are my favorite ways to help people and their dogs get through emotional times. They are natural, gentle, yet powerful ways to treat all kinds of difficult emotions.

They’re effective for both animals and humans, meaning that if you’re both suffering the effects of a troubling time, you can take the same flower essences!

Simply put, flower essences are tinctures that contain the energetic imprint or life force of the flower of a living plant. When taken orally or rubbed on the skin, the characteristics of the plant are absorbed by the body.

The essences work to restore balance and harmony to the body and mind. The body and mind can heal better when they are calm and balanced. Any method you use to try to calm negative emotions, whether through prayer or meditation, different forms of therapy, or even medication will all be more effective in a calm, relaxed, and open state.

A few drops in the mouth, on food, rubbed into the skin, or sprayed on with a spray bottle several times a day will do wonders to bring you and your pet back into balance.

You can read more about what flower essences are and how they work HERE.

A beautiful example of how flower essences are used to help balance both humans and dogs is my work with my clients Melissa and her Labrador mix, Roxy.

She asked me for some help because something about Roxy seemed "off." She's been very clingy, showing signs of separation anxiety when Melissa ventured out to the grocery store for an hour. She recently begged off on a family trip because she didn't think Roxy would fare well at home with her usual dog sitter.

I inquired about what was going on not only in Roxy's life, but in Melissa's as well. She remarked that she's been very anxious about a few life events that had happened. Along with the constant cycle of bad news in her personal life, she'd been very affected by the constant stream of bad news in the world, too.

I asked her if she thought there might be a chance that Roxy had picked up on Melissa's anxiety and was staying close to guard and to comfort rather than there being something wrong with her dog.

The lightbulb moment flashed over her face. "That makes sense since there hasn't been any changes in Roxy's life. I think she's feeding off my stress!"

Melissa had already begun addressing her stress and anxiety, so she was on the right track. But she and Roxy both needed a little extra support to calm the high intensity and allow those methods to work better and faster.

I gave them both a blend of some of these supporting essences to try:

  • Chestnut for worry

  • Golden Amaranthus for work stress and deadlines

  • Blue Vervain for doing too much, relaxation difficult

  • Angelica for calming

  • Lemon Balm to calm and ease worry

  • Bluebell to create positive energies

  • Sunflower to build confidence

  • Missouri Primrose to develop worthiness

  • Bull Thistle for fear of being confined

  • St John's Wort for generalized fear

  • Rock Rose for extreme fear, panic

So far, the results are promising. Melissa said, “As Roxy and I are working through these difficult days, I’ve seen a noticeable difference. I think we both feel easier inside.”

Interactive Toys

Sometimes we all need to take our minds off troubling emotions for a while! Dogs are no different. They can’t be distracted by a juicy book or a good Netflix binge, but they don’t need much to give their minds a break.

Interactive toys aren’t just great boredom busters, they’re great distractions from our emotions, too. They provide mental stimulation, allowing them to become fully absorbed in using their sniffing, hunting, and problem solving instincts. They’re able to relax and sleep after a good toy session.

Great interactive toys include:

  • Puzzles

  • Lick mats smeared with soft food

  • Treat dispensing chew toys

  • Bobble treat dispensers

  • Snuffle mats

Loving Attention From Their Beloved Companion

If you feel like your dog is picking up on your emotions, a little special one-on-one time will do you both good.

A walk at the beach, in the woods, or anywhere in the great outdoors is salve for the soul.

And while exercise is great for the mental and emotional well-being for both of you, when your dog is feeling your emotions, take a different approach by going on a “sniffari.”

Allow your dog to take the lead with their nose. Getting in a good sniff session is great for a dog’s mind. It’s at once relaxing, allowing your dog to work out their natural instincts, but it’s stimulating, too. Experts say a 20 minute sniff session is equivalent to an hour-long walk for exercise!

Massage and Groom

Who doesn’t benefit from a nice massage and gentle brushing?

Spending time pampering your pooch will do as much for you as for your dog. If your dog likes to be brushed, spend some time gently brushing their fur. As you’re doing so, stay in the present moment and allow the troubles you’re facing to fade away.

While you’re at it, add a few gentle massage techniques:

  • Effleurage – long, gentle, flowing strokes of the fur and muscle meant to relax. Start at the neck and work down, avoiding the spine itself.

  • Head massage – there are many calming points on your dog’s head, particularly between and slightly above the eyes. Gently start here and rub your thumbs over the head.

  • Thigh and glute – with gentle pressure, make an arcing stroke along the muscles.

  • Ear – place your thumb on the inside of the ear flap and stroke downward toward the end of the ear.

Take Care of YOU

Can dogs sense your emotions? By now you’ve learned that yes, they can, and they often feel those same emotions in their own bodies and minds.

So the best thing you can do for your dog is to take care of what’s most important to them, you.

Seek help if you need it, talk to a trusted friend, practice self care on a regular basis. Whatever you can do to create a better internal world for yourself will automatically help your pup.

Flower essences are a great place to start. They help to create the balance and harmony you need to allow all your other self care treatments work better and faster. And they are safe, have no side effects, and are effective for both you and your pet!

If you’d like to explore how flower essences can help restore well-being to you and your dog, reach out. With over 1,000 flower essences to choose from, balance and well-being is closer than you can imagine.


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