Any dog owner will agree in saying that dogs are very expressive creatures. Through a combination of verbal and non-verbal cues, we have learned to identify when a dog is feeling emotions such as happiness, excitement and nervousness.
However, when it comes to sadness, it can be tricky to pick out specific cues a dog may exhibit. We know that when humans are sad they show it with tears, but are dogs able to do the same?
When it comes to answering the question of whether or not dogs can cry real tears, the answer is an unsatisfactory “sort of”. Owners of light coated dogs can certainly attest that dogs have working tear ducts; just take a look at the staining that can happen on light coats!
Dogs do, in fact, have the same tear ducts that perform the same functions as a human’s. That is, their tear ducts release the basal tears necessary to keep the eyes moist and the reflexive tears needed to flush away irritants and allergens.
But do dogs have the tears that come in response to emotional stimulation? These emotional tears are produced in a much larger volume than either basal or reflexive tears and are what many people refer to as “real tears”.
As it turns out, canine tear ducts do not work in this manner or for the same reasons. But, this doesn’t mean that dogs don’t get emotional; it just means that they don’t express these feelings through tears.
When dogs experience feelings of sadness, loss or pain, they show their emotional state through vocalizations such as whimpering, whining, and howling. Any combination of these vocalizations is used to help dogs communicate their sadness or pain with the goal of having the situations resolved.
Humans and dogs may express their negative feelings in different ways, but they serve the same purpose. Human’s tears are used to show those around them that they are upset in the hope that they receive comfort, whereas a dog’s vocalizations are used to help them achieve a specific goal that will make them feel better, such as going outside or being near their favorite human.
Just because dogs don’t burst into tears when they’re hurt or upset doesn’t mean that they don’t have feelings. It just means that they express them in a different way. This is probably a good thing is you ask us, because can you image what would happen if those sad puppy dog eyes filled with real tears? Dogs would have total control over us!
H/t to Dogster