Do Dogs Feel Emotions?

Do Dogs Feel Emotions

Written by Benjamin Hartnett


                Do dogs feel emotions? This is up for a lot of debate. There exists much animal cruelty in our world it begs to ask the question: “Do animals feel pain?” We would love to think that our dog loves us the same way as we love. But, does the dog love as we love? Should we treat our pet like a human? Does our dog have rights? This essay is a scientific analysis on the emotions of dogs.

                Dogs do have some emotions. However, they are not as complex as humans (Maguire). Some people even believe that a dog does not love as a human loves or feels love as a human feels. The basis of this investigation is that dogs are not humans. Thus, do dogs feel as humans do since they are not humans? While we cannot know for sure how a dog feels because we are not the dog and the dog cannot speak to us in language terms we can have an understanding based on the dog’s brain. Dogs can feel apprehension, fear, “happiness”, elation, terror, and anger. It must be noted that dogs react in accordance to the way we feel. It has been said that dogs can read human’s emotions. However, this does not indicate how a dog feels. It simply means that a dog can sense the way we feel and react in regard to it. Next, the question: what do emotions do for dogs? An emotion gives the dog an impulse to act on. This would be in response to a situation or an event. It also means how they feel to what they react. For example, if a dog feels fear then the dog must defend itself in regard to the situation.

                There has been research which has shown that dogs have seven basic emotional systems (“Do dogs have,” ). What are these systems? First, it needs to be understood that these emotional systems provide the ability to react. React to what? The reaction is in regard to information that enters into the brain via senses. Moreover, one these systems are a play system. The next one is a care system. Both the care and play system are used to create social attachments and to raise offspring. The third system is a system to look for food. The fourth system is a fear system. While these are not all seven it can be concluded that dogs can form attachments to humans. For example, take a look at pet separation anxiety. A dog experiences anxiety as the owner is away. Sometimes this anxiety can turn into destructive behavior. Does this mean that the dog experiences anxiety because the dog is attached to the owner? I think it does. Think of a baby who cries when its mother is away. The baby has an attachment to the mother. These systems show that the dog or other mammals have emotions. They show that the dog fears, cares, seeking food, and more.

                How does brain structure relate to the emotions of the dog? First, the dog has a pleasure center in the brain just as a human does. This pleasure system secretes the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is involved in rewarding feelings. Thus, it can be said that the dog feels “happiness”. Dogs also have a limbic system. The limbic system plays an important role in emotions. As it can be seen dogs do have structures in the brain that aid them in experiencing emotions. Observation also shows that dogs have emotions. A dog wags its tail when excited as an example. What about pain? Dogs can feel pain because they have a cerebral cortex that deals with pain. Moreover, dogs also have a thalamus which relays pain information. There are structures in the brain that allow the dog to feel emotion and pain as presented.

                Dogs can feel and think (not as complex as humans can). While some philosophers argue that animals cannot feel pain it has been shown scientifically that they can feel pain. The thalamus and the cerebral cortex of a dog deal with pain. Next, dogs can have attachments toward people. While this attachment is not fully understood it can be seen that they do react and attach. Dogs are complex animals. People cannot full understand them because people are not dogs and dogs cannot speak. Dogs are wonderful creatures and they are loyal. They are also great companions.


  1. Maguire, S. (n.d.). Dogs and human emotions. Retrieved from
  2. Do dogs have emotions?. (n.d.). Retrieved from about dogs/living together dog/get more out of life dog/do dogs have emotions.htm

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