Sensing emotions

The truth about dogs
 
The social systems of dogs and humans are very similar in structure. We both live in tight-knit families (or packs). We both have a complex language of facial expressions, body posture, and vocalizations that promote bonding. Dogs have learned over many centuries that the better they anticipated our thoughts and feelings, the more they were rewarded with food, shelter and affection.

Dogs have little to do all day other than sleep or observe our behaviour, so it's no wonder they know us so well.  “Is she happy?” your dog might wonder. “Is she mad? Should I run for cover?” With their fates so tied to our every whim, our dogs are wise to monitor our moods. A good mood might mean an extra cuddle or a game of fetch. A bad mood might mean scary loud noises and a day spent hiding under the bed. It makes sense that dogs would watch us so closely, as our changing moods give essential clues as to what is about to happen next.

Your dog is probably a far better observer than you are. We humans pay so much attention to language that it often interferes with our ability to see, smell, touch and hear what’s actually going on  around us.

Body Language
 
Our dogs can read us like a book. It’s commonly believed that around 90% of human communication is non-verbal and that only 10% is verbal. Your posture, head carriage, gait, and of course facial expressions speak volumes about your mood and motivation. Act happy and your dog will wag their tail excitedly and present their favourite toy for you to toss. Hang your head in sorrow and they'll slink over and affectionately press their head in your lap.
Dogs are especially adept at reading facial expressions. Try this mirroring experiment: Sit facing your dog and make and exaggerated happy face. Your dog will light up as well: big grin, relaxed ears, open facial expression. Now, furrow your brow and look stern. Your dog will recoil, avert their eyes, and look guilty as charged.

Sounds
 
Your dog may not understand every word you say, but they will know your tone of voice. Dogs can hear the different inflections in your voice that mean that you’re happy, anxious, sad, tentative, or angry. This is why your dog hangs their head and skulks away the minute you discover the overturned kitchen trash. To an astute dog, a sound is worth a thousand words.

Smell
 
A dog’s sense of smell is approximately one million times more sensitive than a humans. Our dogs probably experience us as a composite smell “picture” which is as unique and complex as our visual appearance. Subtle changes in a person’s scent are obvious to a dog, just as you might notice a person has lost some weight or got a new haircut.

It’s sometimes said that “dogs can smell fear,” and this is probably true. When you’re anxious, you start to perspire lightly. It may not be visible, you can’t smell it, but a dog can.