Can Dogs Cry? Debunking Emotional Tear Myths

can dogs cry

Dogs are known for their unique ways of expressing emotions, from wagging their tail when they’re happy to growling when they’re upset. One common question among dog owners is whether or not dogs can cry. Understanding our furry friends’ emotional expressions is essential to bonding with them and catering to their needs.

While humans often associate tears with sadness or emotional pain, the answer to whether dogs can cry isn’t as straightforward. In this article, we will explore the science behind dogs’ tear production and whether their tears are a genuine display of emotion or simply a physiological response to an external stimulus.

It’s important to understand that dogs possess a different emotional range compared to humans. As we dive deeper into their world, we will compare and contrast dogs’ tear production with the human emotional response, providing insight into the complex ways dogs express themselves.

Can Dogs Cry?

Dogs do have the ability to cry, but not in the way humans do. When it comes to expressing their emotions, dogs rely on a variety of signals and behaviors instead of shedding tears.

Dogs have different types of cries, such as whining, whimpering, and howling, which they use for communication purposes. These vocalizations convey various emotions, like sadness, frustration, or even seeking attention.

While dogs do have tear ducts that produce tears, these are not connected to their emotions like in humans. Dog tears serve the purpose of lubricating and cleansing their eyes. On occasions when dogs appear to be “crying,” the excess tearing might be due to an issue like an eye infection or a blocked tear duct rather than an emotional response.

In expressing their emotions, dogs primarily rely on body language. Some indicators of a dog’s emotional state include:

  • Tail wagging
  • Ears positioning
  • Facial expressions
  • Body postures

Considering these factors, it’s essential to pay attention to your dog’s body language, vocalizations, and behaviors to understand their emotional state. While they might not cry emotional tears, dogs have various ways to communicate their feelings effectively.

Emotional Reasons for Dog Crying

Sadness and Grief

Dogs can express sadness and grief, and may sometimes cry in response to these emotions. They might experience sadness when they sense their human’s sadness or when a fellow pet passes away. Although a dog’s tears are not due to emotions like humans, their vocalizations and body language can communicate their feelings.

Joy and Happiness

Dogs can also exhibit crying-like behavior when they are happy or excited. A wagging tail, jumping, and enthusiastic vocalizations are all signs of a dog’s joy and happiness. In these moments, dogs might release oxytocin, strengthening the bond between them and their owner.

Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety can cause dogs to cry or whine. Common stressors for dogs include loud noises, unfamiliar environments, and separation from their owner. It’s important to recognize and address such situations to help your canine friend feel more calm and relaxed.

Attention Seeking

Sometimes, dogs cry for attention due to boredom, frustration, or a desire for affection. In these cases, they may be seeking companionship, playtime, or an opportunity to release pent-up energy.

  • Emotional Reasons for Dog Crying:
    • Sadness and Grief
    • Joy and Happiness
    • Stress and Anxiety
    • Attention Seeking

Paying attention to your dog’s emotions and body language is crucial to understanding why they might be crying. Offering love, compassion, and understanding will help them feel more secure and decrease the chances of excessive or undesirable crying.

Physical Causes for a Dog’s Tears

Allergies and Irritants

Dogs may produce tears due to allergies or irritants, such as pollen, dust, or chemical agents in the environment. Allergens can cause inflammation and irritation in a dog’s eyes, leading to excessive tear production. It is important to monitor your dog for signs of eye irritation and consult a veterinarian for proper treatment if necessary.

Blocked Tear Ducts and Infections

Blocked tear ducts can cause tears to overflow instead of draining properly. This may occur due to inflammation or infection. Eye infections can also lead to increased tear production as the body tries to flush out bacteria or other harmful agents. If your dog’s eyes are red, swollen, or have discharge, it is essential to consult your veterinarian to determine the cause and prescribe appropriate treatment.

Injuries and Pain

Injuries to a dog’s eyes, such as a scratched cornea, can also result in tearing. Such injuries can be very painful and may require immediate attention from a veterinarian. In some cases, pain from other sources, such as dental issues, can also cause a dog to tear up, so it’s important to consult a vet when a dog shows signs of pain or distress.

Breed Predispositions

Some dog breeds are more prone to tear production due to genetic predispositions or physical characteristics. For example, brachycephalic breeds, such as Bulldogs and Pugs, often have tear duct issues due to their facial structure. Additionally, some smaller breeds and those with long hair around their eyes, like Shih Tzus and Maltese, may experience more irritation from hair, leading to increased tear production. Regular grooming and care can help reduce the risk of excessive tearing in these breeds.

sad puppy in the garden

Dog Vocalizations

Whining and Whimpering

Dogs communicate their emotions and needs using a variety of vocalizations, including whining and whimpering. These sounds often indicate that your dog is feeling anxious, stressed, or seeking attention. They can vary in pitch and duration, depending on the dog’s individual personality and emotional state.

Whining might also be a sign of physical discomfort or pain, so it is essential to observe your dog closely to determine the cause of their vocalizations. If you suspect that your pet may be in pain or injured, it is crucial to consult with a veterinarian.


Barking is another common vocalization made by dogs, and it can convey a wide range of emotions and needs. Dogs bark for various reasons, such as alerting their owners to potential danger, excitement, or even boredom. Barking can differ in pitch, volume, and frequency, depending on the dog’s breed, temperament, and the context of the situation.

It is essential to understand your dog’s barking language to address their needs and maintain a healthy, happy relationship with your pet.


Howling is a natural form of communication for dogs that is deeply rooted in their wolf ancestry. This vocalization serves several purposes, such as alerting other pack members of danger, establishing territory, or even expressing loneliness.

While domesticated dogs do not depend on these survival instincts as much as their wild counterparts, they still exhibit howling behaviors in certain situations. It is essential to pay attention to your dog’s howling and try to identify any underlying issues or concerns that may be causing them to vocalize in this manner.

How to Comfort a Crying Dog

Identifying the Cause

First, observe your dog’s behavior and surroundings to identify any potential causes for their distress. Keep in mind that dogs can cry for a variety of reasons such as pain, fear, or separation anxiety. Common indicators of stress include whining, excessive barking, or pacing. Addressing the root cause can greatly assist in comforting your dog.

Medical Treatment

If you suspect that your dog is crying due to a medical issue, consult with a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. Health-related concerns may include allergies, infections, or injuries. Depending on the diagnosis, your vet may prescribe medications such as antihistamines for allergies or antibiotics for infections. Timely medical treatment is essential for your dog’s health and comfort.

Behavioral Support

Providing emotional support and implementing positive behavioral strategies can help your dog feel more at ease. Here are some suggestions:

  • Toys: Offer your dog toys that can provide comfort and distraction from stressors, such as chew toys or interactive puzzles.
  • Walks and exercise: Engaging your dog in physical activities like walks or playtime can help to reduce stress and promote happiness.
  • Treats: Reward your dog with their favorite treats during times of stress to create a positive association and encourage calm behavior.
  • Attention: Be mindful of the amount of attention you give to your dog when they are crying. Offering too much attention during moments of distress can reinforce the behavior. Instead, try to redirect their focus and reward calm behavior with attention and praise.

Do Dogs Experience Emotions Like Humans?

Dogs, like humans, are considered sentient beings and have been observed to experience a range of emotions. They may not have the same emotional repertoire as humans, but they do possess a variety of feelings, such as happiness, sadness, fear, and anger.

One of the clearest indicators that dogs have feelings is their ability to form strong bonds with their owners and other dogs. They display joy when playing with their favorite toy or greeting a beloved person. It is also evident when they show signs of sadness or even grief upon the loss or absence of a playmate or owner.

Dogs can also exhibit fear or anxiety, which may be triggered by various factors, including loud noises, unfamiliar environments, or negative experiences. Their responses in these situations may include trembling, crying, or trying to escape.

Anger is another emotion that dogs can display. This is often evident when they feel threatened or challenged, and they may growl, bare their teeth, or even bite in response to the perceived threat.

In summary, dogs do experience emotions, although they might be different from human emotions. The feelings they have include happiness, sadness, fear, and anger, and their emotional health is essential for their overall well-being.


While dogs may not cry emotional tears like humans, they have their own unique ways of expressing emotions. Dogs communicate through vocalizations, body language, and behaviors, which allow them to convey their feelings of joy, sadness, stress, and the need for attention. Understanding and interpreting these signals is key to building a strong bond with our furry friends and meeting their emotional needs effectively.

When a dog appears to be crying, it is important to consider physical causes rather than assuming it is solely an emotional response. Excessive tearing in dogs can be a result of allergies, irritants, blocked tear ducts, infections, injuries, or breed predispositions. Monitoring their eye health and seeking veterinary care when necessary is essential to ensure their comfort and well-being.

In providing comfort to a crying dog, it is crucial to identify the underlying cause of their distress, seek appropriate medical treatment if needed, and offer behavioral support. This can involve providing toys, engaging in physical activities, rewarding calm behavior, and creating a secure and nurturing environment. By understanding and addressing their emotional needs, we can cultivate a happier and healthier relationship with our beloved canine companions.

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