Can Dogs Really Feel Joy? – DogJoy.Love

Can Dogs Really Feel Joy?

From the tail wagging to the whines and whimpers – it’s no doubt that our four-legged friends experience a variety of emotions. 

If you’re a fellow dog-lover or dog-owner you have certainly witnessed, first-hand, several of the emotions our furry friends are capable of experiencing. 

Dogs and Emotions

In an interview with the Dodo, Dr. Shwartz revealed that dogs “experience the same gamut of emotions that we do, the emotional part of the brain is exactly the same.” 

Because of the structural similarities of the emotional part of the brain, called the limbic system, it’s agreed that dogs are capable of experiencing all of the same basic emotions humans experience, including joy. 

In fact, researchers have come to believe that the mind of a dog is roughly equivalent to that of a human who is around 2 years old. 

While dogs experience many of the same emotions humans do, the way in which they are felt differs among humans and dogs. 

Humans experience and understand emotions in terms of language. So, when we feel something, we think of it and talk about it in terms of a particular label or emotion. Dogs don’t have words for their emotions– they just feel them. 

A dog’s body language is the best indicator of how they are feeling in a given situation. 

What Does a Joyful Dog Look Like?

Because they can’t name their emotions or verbally communicate what they are feeling, the best way to gain insight into a dog’s emotions is through their body language. 
Tail Wagging

One indicator of a joyful dog is a wagging tail, but not all wagging tails communicate the same thing. 

A wagging tail means the dog is emotionally aroused - that could be excitement, frustration, or fear. To interpret the dog’s emotions and intentions, look at the speed and direction of the wag as well as the position of the tail.

Joy is typically indicated by long, slow, side-to-side tail sweeps that tend to wag more in the right direction and in a neutral position.  

Play Bows

A dog’s weight distribution can tell a lot about mood and intention. 
Consider a cowering dog that is hunched toward the ground– that’s a sign of fear or stress.

The opposite posture is a dog with his or her weight shifted forward. This might simply indicate the dog’s interest, but it could also indicate offensive intentions.

A relatively easy-to-read indicator of a joyful dog is the play bow– when dogs place their chest on the ground with their rump in the air. As the name implies, it’s used to initiate play with other dogs and even with people.

Facial Expressions

Dogs have similar facial features as people, but they don't always use them in the same way. For example, people yawn when they’re tired or bored, but dogs yawn when they’re stressed.

Smiling can be another confusing expression to read in dogs. Usually, when dogs bare their teeth, it serves as a warning.

But a dog may also flash a smile when they are feeling content and having a good time! This is also known as a submissive grin. 


So yes, dogs can feel joy!

That big goofy grin on your dog's face as he zooms up and down the beach, or an energetic tail wag that begins the second you walk in the house from a long day of work… that’s DogJoy! 

And that feeling you get watching DogJoy? Well… that’s love… DogJoy.Love.