“That’s not even on the table in terms of debate,” Linda Case, owner of AutumnGold Consulting and Dog Training Center in Illinois and author of The Science Dog, told PetMD. “Basic emotions like joy, fear, and anxiety—dogs definitely experience them.”
But what about anger? Do dogs actually get ᴍᴀᴅ? This is where things get a little complex. The short answer is yes, it’s possible for your dog to feel upset. But here’s the good news: Your dog isn’t ᴍᴀᴅ “at” you in the way that you’re imagining. According to PetMD, while dogs definitely feel emotions, they don’t associate blame with those emotions. So yeah, your dog might be upset, but he’s not fuming in the corner, cursing you internally.
What’s more, anger isn’t an emotion that dogs are likely to feel very often, if at all. What we interpret as anger in a dog is much more likely fear, ꜰʀᴜsᴛʀᴀᴛion, disappointment, or annoyance.
Dogs might be man’s best friend, but even the best of friends disagree every now and again. There is no feeling in the world worse than the nagging fear that your dog, who loves everything from chasing his tail to ʙᴜʀʏing bones, is ᴍᴀᴅ at you!
WHY DO DOGS GET ᴍᴀᴅ?
There are times when dogs are upset and you know exactly why — a little kid pets too hard, another dog steals their favorite toy, or some other obvious event ᴛʀɪɢɢᴇʀs their ɴᴇɢᴀᴛɪᴠᴇ reaction. But again, we’re talking about neurotic, human interpretations of dogs’ pure, simple emotional responses so you’re not here to double-check if the toddler that pulled your dog’s tail at the park annoyed him.
Dogs express their emotions as they experience them. You’re not doing anything to make your dog hate you. You don’t need to add that to your list of anxieties.
SO, WHAT ARE THE SIGNS?
She keeps licking her lips and there’s no food nearby
According to Sara Taylor CPDT-KA, spcaLA director of animal behavior and training, dogs may show that they’re ᴍᴀᴅ or in disᴛʀᴇss by licking their nose and lips repeatedly. This is especially true if there’s no drool-worthy food nearby to get their saliva flowing from hunger. One situation she sees this happen a lot is when dogs are being hugged by children or strangers. The solution is simple. “Stop any restraining or hugging,” she says.
His tail is tucked and still
If your pup is in a crouching pose with his tail tucked between his legs, he might be taking your criticism more personally than you’d thought. This posture shows he’s guarded on the defensive. “Dogs, like humans, are emotional creatures,” Olshavsky says. “If you’ve scolded them, or spoke sternly, they can pout like a teenager.” If you see him backed up like this, lower your voice and talk softly and soothingly. “This will re-establish your bond together and will reinforce the trust your dog had in you,” she says.
She absolutely refuses to sit and stay
Think your dog knows what you want her to do and is refusing in a fit of pique? You may be right. When dogs know cues well, they respond to them, so if your dog suddenly stops responding to a normal cue, that could be an indication that she is upset by something in her environment or by you, Askeland says. Before you get upset too, take a moment and check yourself. Are you feeling sᴛʀᴇssed, angry, frantic, upset, or sad? Your feelings can influence your dog’s, she says. “Take measures to calm yourself down and this will help your dog feel more comfortable and get back to your loving relationship,” she says.
He won’t look you in the eye
If a person refused to meet their gaze and turned their back on you, you’d get the message that they were angry loud and clear. It’s the same with dogs, says Erin Askeland, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, dog training and behavior expert at Camp Bow Wow. “A dog who is happy and comfortable will likely be willing to make eye contact with his owner and seek out their attention whereas a dog who is angry or upset may avoid this type of interaction and move away from their owner, leave the room, or even sleep in a different area,” she says. How to fix this? Offer calm, quiet time together to help you and your dog relax, say reading a book or listening to soft music, she says.
His back goes rigid and his body is stiff
“When a dog is really, really upset he’ll often go rigid, his body stiff, hard and unmoving,” says Melissa McGrath-McCue CPDT-KA, pet behaviorist and author of Considerations for the City Dog. “It’s almost as if he’s saying ‘take one more step, I dare you!’” If you see this combined with flattened ears and wide, alarmed eyes, you need to stay away and step back as your dog is feeling really sᴛʀᴇssed, ᴍᴀᴅ, and even ᴛʜʀᴇᴀᴛened, she says. Give him his space or he may feel like he has to defend it which can, in some cases, lead to biting, she adds. Smaller dogs may be more susceptible than larger ones to feeling trapped; that’s just one of the many benefits big dogs offer.
She lets out a primal growl
“Growling is an obvious but frequently misunderstood sign,” Taylor says, adding that it shows your dog is very uncomfortable and upset. “It is often used as a warning for the purposes of making something stop. For example, he may growl if you’re trying to move your dog from his comfortable bed for late night potty time by using her collar or when a stranger approaches your dog and tries to pet her,” she adds. Resist the urge to yell at or otherwise punish your dog for growling as that damages trust, doesn’t teach your dog appropriate behavior, and can often worsen ᴀɢɢʀᴇssɪve behavior, she says.
He is cowering behind the sofa
Most people associate cowering and hiding with fear and while that can definitely be true, fear is also closely linked to anger in dogs, Taylor says. “Cowering indicates a high level of sᴛʀᴇss,” she explains. “If your dog is also trying to hide and get away this means your dog is overwhelmed.” Your job as a responsible pet owner is to then remove him from the situation before he gets more overwhelmed and acts out.
He goes into beast mode
Just like your roommate who counted out your M&Ms from the communal bag, dogs place a high emphasis on fairness. “Dogs get ᴍᴀᴅ if they have been treated unfairly, and may act instantaneously with bursts of rage,” Olshavsky says. What this looks like may be different for each dog but you’ll know it when you see it. The solution is simple: More exercise. “Dogs need to get that energy out in some way and a daily walk is the perfect way to do it,” she says.
She ᴘᴇᴇs in your shoes
“Dogs can definitely be spiteful when they are ᴍᴀᴅ,” Olshavsky says. “The dog wants you to know you’ve upset him so he will do something he knows will get a reaction out of you.” This means finding whatever you love—your new shoes, your favorite couch pillows, your hidden treats—and destroying them, leaving the mangled evidence as proof of their anger. Instead of returning with anger yourself, make sure your pup has plenty of stimulating toys she can chew on whenever she feels that destructive urge, she adds.
He stays just out of arm’s reach
Don’t expect an angry, “Bad human! Go!” but dogs do have plenty of ways of telling you to keep your distance because they are not happy with you right now. This can mean he darts away from you or it can also be a hard stare, flattened ears, paw lift, sharp barks, or a raised tail among other signs, Askeland says. “Dogs are typically good at indicating when they are unhappy and want you to go away, so it’s important to pay attention to these signs,” she says. Instead of chasing him down, let him cool down and come to you when he’s ready. “Don’t force any interaction on your dog if they are upset with you,” she says.
HOW LONG WILL A DOG STAY ᴍᴀᴅ?
For exactly as long as the thing making him ᴍᴀᴅ is happening. Remember, dogs live in the moment and, unlike humans, they don’t hold grudges.
How do I get my dog to stop being ᴍᴀᴅ at me?
If your dog actually is ᴍᴀᴅ, then stop doing whatever is making him ᴍᴀᴅ. If your dog just generally seems upset or in an off mood, then start by meeting his basic needs. Make sure your dog has mental stimulation, physical exercise, and, of course, lots of love. Dogs are better than us. They don’t say “I’m fine,” when they’re really still seething. Once you turn your pup’s frown upside down, you can trust that all is truly forgiven.
WILL MY DOG FORGIVE ME?
Yes! Your dog will forgive you. In almost every case, you are a game of tug and a yummy treat away from being the best of friends again.