The sun rises on a busy weekday morning. You’re rushing around your house preparing to leave for work. As you reach over to gather your bag and coat, you turn and stub your toe on the bed.
As you hop around holding your throbbing toe, you’re met with a predictable sight:
Two big puppy dog eyes staring up at you, silently saying, “I saw that!”
As your eyes well up with tears from the pain, the realization hits you: you’re totally about to cry in front of your dog!
But you wonder, is this okay?
It is not necessarily harmful to cry in front of your dog. However, studies show that your dog is sensitive to your feelings. Your sadness and anxiety may create unstable and insecure feelings in your dog that can affect your relationship with them as their trainer and parent.
In this article, I will discuss whether your dog cares if you cry. I will uncover how crying in front of your dog may impact their training and their relationship with you.
This is a sensitive but very real and necessary topic indeed.
Let’s get down to it!
Your dog absolutely cares if you cry!
Your dog cares about you, period. As their pack leader, alpha, parent and best friend, they care very, very much.
A dog may not be able to cognitively “care” in the same way that a human would. But by virtue of their unconditional love, you can rest in their concern towards you.
Now that it’s been established that your dog does care, let’s explore whether your dog can actually tell if you’re sad.
Dogs are incredibly perceptive and can pick up on subtle cues from their owners. Dogs can sense your emotions by observing some of the following:
Did you know that your pup is that sensitive? And that they’re watching you that closely?
Pretty cool, huh?!
Due to your dog’s keen abilities to observe and discern, they are able to tell when you’re sad.
Your tears are not lost on your pup.
Some studies go so far as to suggest that dogs are perceptive enough to tell that their owners are in genuine distress.
One study showed that 15 out of 18 dogs approached their owners when they were crying. However, this number dropped significantly when these dog owners were merely humming. Only six out of 18 dogs approached their humming owners.
The results of this study appear to hint at the fact that your dog is not merely curious about the noises you’re making. But your pup actually feels a sense of urgency when you are truly upset.
Some common ways your pup may respond to your distress in real life may include:
So not only does your pup know when you’re down, they actually respond in ways to try to help you!
However, there is another school of thought as to why your pup may behave in these ways.
There is no denying that your dog is alert and responsive to your anguish. But your dog may be doing this because they have been positively reinforced for acting this way in the past.
If your dog has come over to you when you’ve cried in the past and been rewarded with cuddles and affection, this may make your dog more likely to do this in the future.
It’s been established that your dog is concerned over you when you cry. And they also like to try to help wipe your tears away.
But does all of this crying in front of your pup actually affect them in a negative way?
Studies show that when you are upset, your dog is too. When you cry, the stress hormone cortisol increases; not only in your body but in your dog’s body as well. As your dog’s stress levels rise, they may begin to feel out of sorts. You are their leader so you essentially set the tone. If you’re not at peace, they’re likely not at peace.
Your pup is so sensitive to your feelings and activities. Seeing you cry has a deeply profound impact on them. Here is a shortlist of some other seemingly harmless things you may be doing in front of your dog that you may not know could be causing them distress.
The tone you set while you are training your dog is critical. They need to feel safe, at ease and be able to trust you to learn from you. Like a parent or teacher of a human child, showing calm confidence is key.
If you’re feeling emotionally dysregulated to the point of tears while training your dog, you may be quick to snap at them. In this way, you may unintentionally create an environment of fear. This may make it more difficult for your pup to learn.
But if your dog feels you’ve got your own emotions under control, they will be more likely to feel safe with you. This way, they can better relax and receive what you are trying to teach them.
It’s hard to know exactly how crying in front of your dog may impact their relationship with you. It can feel good and be bonding to receive comfort from your dog. This is a normal and human desire to seek your pup’s support. There is no shame, and you’re not weak for doing this from time to time.
Also, keep in mind, your dog’s sense of safety is also dependent on you. This doesn’t mean you have to be a robot in front of them, but it is important to keep in mind that they are observing you. And that your moods and emotions directly impact them.
To maintain order in your home and retain your dog’s trust and respect, it may be wise to be mindful of how often you allow your pup to see you crumble.
Of course, it is okay to cry in front of your dog and allow them to comfort you. But I would recommend not making it an everyday thing or a staple of your dynamic with them.
I recommend allowing yourself to receive a healthy amount of comfort from your dog while keeping in mind that there is a hierarchy between you. As your dog’s pack leader, you want to be their primary provider of direction and stability. Your pup is simply not designed to be that for you.
If you find yourself falling apart more often than not, this is understandable. But, unfortunately, life has some trying times, and perhaps you are walking through a season where you need more support than usual.
If things have become unmanageable, I encourage you to reach out to a dear friend or trusted confidant, a counselor, or a spiritual leader in your life.
Receiving love from your pup when you’re down is a beautiful supplement and can help get you through some tough times, no doubt. But if you’re feeling sad and find yourself crying frequently, your pup’s comfort may only be one piece of the pie. You may need more focused and precise assistance to truly get over the hump.
I certainly don’t want you to take away from this that crying in front of your dog is bad and you should never do it.
You’re human and your dog lives with you! They, of all people, are going to have a front row seat to your true self. Sometimes your dog will be the only one who sees you at your lowest and most vulnerable. This is part of what makes the bond you share with them so sacred.
It’s all about striking a balance between being yourself in front of your dog while still remaining their source of stability. As your pup’s parent, your mental health is so important. It will not only affect how you take care of your dog but your dog’s own wellbeing too.
It is my hope for you that you will allow your dog to comfort you when you’re down from time to time. And I also hope that you won’t shrink back from seeking additional help if you truly need it.
This is a delicate dance, but please remember; it’s okay to cry.