Do dogs know when you’re angry at them?

You probably know enough of these situations where your four-legged friend’s behaviour annoys you and you get angry at him because of it.

Yes, dogs notice when you are angry at them.

Even the best behaved dog will test the limits of your patience from time to time. But do dogs really know when you’re mad at them?

Does the dog feel my anger?

Your dog is very emotionally attached to you and senses your mood. Accordingly, he feels whether you are sad, happy or angry.

However, this does not mean that he knows and understands the reason for your mood. If you are angry at your dog, it is up to you to show him why.

Since your dog can sense your state of mind, it makes sense to be in tune with your dog and, if possible, make it clear to your dog that a behaviour is not desired before you misbehave.

How do I show my dog my anger about wrong behaviour?

In order to get on well with your dog, even if you are not happy with his behaviour, you should show him immediately what is upsetting you.

Since we can’t explain anything to our best friend with words, we need the direct connection between action and feeling. Do you know the motto: “A lot helps a lot”? Unfortunately, that doesn’t work here. With your dog, it’s more important to find the right nuances.

A serious, clear and short word, e.g. “No!”, “Fie!”, “Off!”, which you say emphatically, works wonders. The tone literally plays the music and your dog immediately notices whether you are talking to him with anger, emphasis or joy.

Here it makes sense not to scold your dog all the way through, because a string of words is harder for your dog to understand than a short, clear word.

However, you must catch your dog immediately and admonish him, otherwise he will not be able to associate the action with your anger. There is even a risk that he will associate the admonition with joyful events, such as you coming home after work.

To make sure your dog understands the connection, you should take action immediately after the behaviour. However, if you are still collecting the laundry and cooking pasta, your dog has no connection to his behaviour of half an hour ago.

Any dog can wrap his master around his finger

Does it make sense to punish the dog for a wrong behaviour?

Provided our dog understands why we are punishing him, showing anger and admonishing or punishing the dog can be quite successful. Although there are differences from breed to breed, most dogs have a strong urge to make their best friend happy.

Accordingly, he will try to avoid behaviour that you show him is undesirable.

In addition to the timing, the severity of the punishment should be appropriate. A harsh, attention-getting word can be punishment enough. Other options that may suit the situation are:

  •     Ignoring your dog until he stops the unwanted behaviour.
  •     Pausing the activity with your dog, e.g. playing, and continuing directly as soon as he behaves as desired.
  •     Withholding a reward that your dog expects, e.g. not giving a treat that was ready.
  •     Resolutely interrupting unwanted behaviour without using force.

Physical punishment will damage your bond and the resulting loss of trust is difficult to repair, so you should never resort to it.

It may seem that a light kick or a peck in the side will have a great effect, as your dog will react immediately. However, you will end up with a dog that only tries to avoid punishment and loses all curiosity and experimentation.

Here it is helpful to get creative when you want your dog to avoid a behaviour.

Avoid the behaviour and you avoid the punishment!

You and your dog will have the most fun in training when positive reinforcement is used. Rewarding good behaviour and constantly working on it will reward you with a loyal and balanced companion who is a joy to have at your side.

Be careful, however, that your dog doesn’t get clever enough to train you by constantly doing everything without being asked, for which there are treats.

Dogs need a lot of training and a lot of patience

However, even the best dog and trainer will not get through the first months and years without making mistakes. Since punishment is less successful and brings no joy to either, one of the key strategies is to avoid situations that call for punishment.

You can successfully limit your dog’s ability to act and prevent yourself from getting angry at him.

A concrete example:

If your dog tends to chase and ignores your calls, don’t let him off the leash. Instead, keep him on a short leash and reward him when he ignores game and pays attention to you.

If he jumps into the leash, admonish him and move on. With time, he will react better to your commands and you can gradually lengthen the leash. In this way you avoid giving your dog the opportunity to act out the undesired behaviour and he learns which behaviour is desired.

Communication is the key

Dogs are sensitive and can sense what moods you are going through. But the lack of language makes it difficult for us to communicate the reasons for our anger.

For your dog to understand you, you must only show your anger to him when he can relate it to a specific and immediate behaviour. Then he can learn from it and will try everything to make you happy.

And if he is not the reason for your anger, then give him a hug and a cuddle and you will both feel better again very quickly!

Conclusion – Can dogs tell when you are angry at them?

Dogs also have a lively emotional life and therefore they pick up the vibrations of their environment. Whether you approach your dog joyfully or shout at him in a serious voice, your dog will notice the difference.

It is possible that your dog does not perceive the connection to his misbehaviour. There are many ways you can make it clear to your dog in his own language that his behaviour is not correct.

But here the tone makes the music, rather short, concise words than a monologue of swear words that the dog does not understand.