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Canine Companion: Dogs Can Sense When People Are Stressed

Hey, guys! Last night I watched “A Dog’s Journey” for the first time. I know, I know. You’re probably thinking, “I am surprised she hasn’t seen that yet.” But, as a single mother of two running a company, I don’t exactly have time to watch many movies. Busy, busy.

Anyway, that’s what I want to focus on today. We aren’t going to focus on the movie in particular, but if you have seen the movie, one of the main themes of the movie involves dogs always being there to give us love, comfort, and warmth in our hardest times.

If you have been following me for some time, you likely know I have been struggling with some issues which have deeply impacted the life of my family. I’m not going to get into them here, but the main point is to remember who is there during these times

P.S. If you’re going through a hard time, always remember everything happens for a reason and after the thunderstorm comes the sunshine.

During this time, we were blessed with a dog named Goober. He’s an English Springer Spaniel and he’s actually called our ‘velcro dog’ because he never leaves our side (my two boys and myself). If you’ve read previous columns, you’ve probably heard him called that before.

Dogs can sense when we are feeling stressed, anxious, lonely, heartbroken, etc. When we are going through a hard time, whether it’s for a long or short period of time, there are differences in our body language (and the ‘chemicals’ released from our body).

If we have a strong bond with our dog, it is likely that our dog is extremely ‘in-tune’ with us. He understands how we appear normally and can tell a difference when we aren’t happy. Even if you don’t share a strong bond, there are some dogs who just ‘click’ with the way people feel.

If your dog senses you’re crying, you may notice a blank gaze in your direction, a nudge of her nose, and/or submissive body language. There isn’t enough scientific evidence to say dogs are empathetic, but you can synthesize this information as you wish.

What are my thoughts on this? As a professional who studies canine behavior, I am a firm believer dogs do show empathy. They are able to relate to us when we are experiencing every emotion. But, more research does need to be done on this to prove it and it’s a bit difficult since our dogs can’t directly speak our language.

When my boys are having a rough day, guess who is in the living room cuddling with them watching a movie? That’s right, our dog is right in there nudging them for cuddles.

You may even notice your dog whimpering or crying if they sense you are struggling emotionally.

Not only does our dog cuddle us to make us feel better, but they do even more than just that. There is scientific evidence revealing the love hormone, oxytocin, is released when we pet our dogs and/or when we gaze into their eyes. Oxytocin is released in both us and our dog resulting in both of us feeling better.

Some people, even dog lovers, may get overwhelmed if they are upset and their dog comes up to nudge them. It’s important to understand, if you are upset, your dog is likely “bothering you” because she wants to make you feel better. That’s her goal. She wants you to be happy.

There’s a reason dogs are our best friends and a huge part of our family. They truly care about us and want only the best (as cheesy as that sounds). Don’t get upset with your dog as she cuddles up next to you while you’re upset; instead, try petting her. That will generally make both of you feel better; even if it’s just a little bit better. That little bit means a lot.

Until next time.

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