The Surprising Reason Why Your Dog Cries For You

A new dog study has shed light on scientific proof regarding why dogs cry for their owners. The results are astounding.

By Joseph Farago | Published

dog study

For those who have animals, it may feel like there’s a telepathic understanding between pets and owners. After years of sharing the same space, you learn to translate their body language, growls, and whimpers. Over time, scientists have discovered more about how domesticated animals feel as well as their vocalization patterns. Now, a new dog study is finding out why, and for what reason, canines cry.

Researchers in Japan have found that dogs do cry just like their human counterparts. But what does it mean when dogs shed tears? Are they having a similar emotional response to joy or sadness that humans do, or is it something more intuitive? For years, canine tear ducts were never assumed to initiate because of emotion, but this dog study is the first publication to reveal a link between emotions and reactions.

The dog study was released this Monday on Current Biology. The publication outlines the Japanese researchers’ findings and how there may be evidence that supports dogs crying based on emotional responses. Takefumi Kikusui, one of the study’s co-authors, began the research six years ago after noticing his poodle shed tears after giving birth. Though the poodle didn’t have any vocal reactions, Kikusui saw the undeniable tears coming from his canine’s eyes. This galvanized him to research dogs, their emotional intelligence, and what it truly means when pets cry for supposed joyful occasions.

The dog study began by surveying 18 different canines. The dogs were tested by their owners, who each collected a specific volume of their pet’s tears. After the collection, the researchers compared the previous tears to those of dogs reunited with their owners after seven hours of separation. The study found that dogs reunited with their owners expelled 10% more tears than dogs in everyday situations. To finalize their evidence, the researchers isolated 20 dogs and then released them to people who weren’t their owners. The findings showed no change in tear volume from dogs greeting people they didn’t know.

Though there’s still plenty we don’t know about dogs’ emotional cognizance, this dog study showcases how dogs emit tears from positive interactions, similar to humans. It’s been studied over the years how dogs can recognize human emotions, but it was never proven previously that dogs have physical responses to their feelings. Now, owners can be confident that their pet is shedding tears due to the overwhelming joy they feel.

Kikusui is still interested in the chemicals that dogs use to produce these tears. The dog study did find that they associate tears with their emotional status, but what mechanisms do their body use to initiate this response? Kikusui believes that the chemical oxytocin may be the possible culprit for this emotional reaction. Oxytocin, otherwise known as the love hormone, is something humans produce organically as well. It’s a hormone that’s associated with amorous feelings and excitement. The production of this hormone in dogs corroborates the theory that dogs crying when seeing their owner is out of deep happiness and love.