Picture this — you're sitting at home with the lights turned off, watching the latest horror flick on TV, and your heart is racing. You cuddle in closer to your hot date and you could swear he was just as scared as you are. His ears are down, his tail is between his legs and his nose is warm — could your dog really be getting scared?
Do Dogs Get Spooked When Watching Scary Movies?
In short, yes. But it's complicated.
Your dog may suffer from a noise phobia.
If your pup is huddled up against you, is shaking, or has plain left the room, then they're likely showing signs of noise phobia from your slasher flicks' intense soundtrack. Noise phobia is "an excessive fear of a sound that results in the dog attempting to avoid or escape from the sound." Common culprits are sounds like thunder, breaking glass, and fireworks, but can also include more every day sounds like traffic noise and TV.
If your dog falls into this category, then you likely already know about it since a study by the University of Bristols School of Veterinary Sciences, found that "fear responses to less important noises (TV, traffic) probably reflect fearful personality characteristics while those to very significant noises (gunshots, thunder, fireworks), may reflect specific exposures and experiences."
They also found that if your dog is one that's scared of the TV, they're probably also afraid of loud noises, so a horror movie is the worst of both worlds for your anxiety-ridden pup.
Dogs can sense your fear.
When the suspense of the movie begins to build as the half-dressed girl walks towards the dark basement and you find yourself feeling scared, your dog can feel it too. While he may not be directly reacting to what's playing out on the TV, he is picking up on things like your body language, facial expression and even the way you smell.
According to Animal Planet, "When we humans are experiencing stress or fear, we give off a distinct odor that dogs can smell. When you're nervous, adrenaline pumps through your veins and dogs can smell this hormone." This is thanks to your dog's super sensitive sniffer and his 200-300 million receptor sites (versus our measly 6 million).
Your dog is your best friend, you two know each other better than anyone else and have a unique unspoken bond. It's no wonder a study by the University Lincoln and Sao Paulo concluded, "that dogs truly recognize emotions in humans." They did this by showing dogs pictures of various facial expressions and playing sounds of voices in different tones and they found that the dogs matched them correctly the majority of the time.
When you combine your dog's noise phobia and the sense of fear they're picking up from you, it's only natural for them to have a tell-me-when-it's-over reaction.
The next time you're gearing up for a long night of Netflixing with your doggie date, take him into consideration when picking a title. You may have to skip out on the horror movie, but at least you won't have to worry about your date talking or checking his Instagram in the middle of the movie.