Do Dogs Miss People? Understanding Canine Emotions

by John Fletcher on May 22, 2023
a dog laying down on the ground looks sad because his owner is not at home

As pet owners, we often wonder about the emotional lives of our beloved dogs. One common question that arises is whether dogs experience feelings of missing their human companions when they are apart. In this article, we delve into the fascinating world of canine emotions to explore the question: Do dogs miss people?


Understanding Canine Emotions

Dogs are known for their remarkable ability to form strong emotional bonds with their human caretakers. Research has shown that dogs possess complex emotional lives, including experiencing joy, fear, anger, and even jealousy. However, when it comes to missing people, it's essential to consider the unique characteristics of canine emotions and their relationship with humans.


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Dependency and Social Bonding

Dogs are social animals that have evolved alongside humans for thousands of years. This coexistence has led to the development of a deep social bond between dogs and their human companions. Dogs rely on their owners for care, companionship, and emotional support, leading to a sense of dependency. This dependency creates a strong emotional connection, making it more likely that dogs will experience a form of missing when separated from their humans.


Scent Recognition and Memory

One fascinating aspect of canine behavior is their exceptional sense of smell. Dogs have an olfactory system that is significantly more powerful than ours, allowing them to recognize and remember scents with astonishing precision. This ability extends to recognizing the scent of their human family members. When a dog smells their owner's scent, it can trigger positive emotions and memories, potentially resulting in signs of missing or longing.


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Behavioral Indicators

Although dogs cannot verbally communicate their emotions like humans, they express themselves through body language and behavior. When separated from their owners, dogs may display signs of distress or anxiety, such as excessive barking, whining, pacing, or destructive behavior. These behaviors are often interpreted as manifestations of missing their human companions, suggesting that dogs do experience a form of emotional longing.


Research Findings

Scientific studies have provided some insights into dogs' capacity to miss people. A study published in the journal "Animal Cognition" found that dogs display more signs of stress and anxiety when their owners are absent compared to when they are present. Additionally, brain imaging studies have shown that dogs' brains release oxytocin, often referred to as the "love hormone," when they are in the presence of their owners. These findings support the notion that dogs experience emotional attachment and may indeed miss their human counterparts.


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Coping Mechanisms and Adaptability

While it is clear that dogs can experience a sense of missing, it is important to note that they are also adaptable creatures. Dogs possess a remarkable ability to adjust to changing circumstances and form new bonds. This adaptability, combined with their loyalty and resilience, allows them to cope with temporary separations and form strong connections with new caretakers if necessary.



In conclusion, dogs are social animals that form deep emotional bonds with their human companions. Although they may not experience the same complex range of emotions as humans, evidence suggests that dogs can indeed miss their owners. The dependency, scent recognition, and behavioral indicators all contribute to this phenomenon. Understanding and acknowledging the emotional needs of our canine friends can help us nurture and strengthen the bond we share, ensuring their happiness and well-being.