Is My Dog Secretly Mad At Me?

Dogs might be man's best friend, but even the best of friends have disagreements every now and again. There is no feeling in the world that's worse than the nagging fear that your dog, who loves everything from belly rubs to chasing bees, is mad at you. Even more frustrating? You don't always know why. It's not as if dogs can tell us why they're upset, either. So why, exactly, is your dog mad at you? Here's everything you need to know about why your pup is acting so perturbed.

An angry dog sits on a woman's lap.
credit: Cuteness

Is it really possible for a dog to be upset?

So first things first: Can dogs even be upset? When it comes to emotions, we're not just projecting: Dogs really do feel them.

"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 mad? This is where things get a little more complicated. The short answer is yeah, it's possible for your dog to feel upset. But here's the good news: Your dog isn't mad "at" you in the way that you're imagining. According to PetMD, while dogs definitely feel emotions, they don't assign blame to those emotions. So yeah, your dog might be upset, but he's not stewing in the corner, cursing you in his interior doggie monologue.

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 frustration, fear, disappointment, or annoyance.

Why do dogs get mad?

There are times when dogs are upset and you know exactly why — a little kid yanks on their tail, another dog steals their favorite toy, or some other obvious event triggers their negative 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. You want to know if you're doing (or not doing) something that's got your pup seriously teed off.

Here's the good news: You're not doing anything wrong, in a longterm sense, to make your dog hate you. You don't need to add that to your list of anxieties. Dogs express their emotions as they experience them. If they're truly "angry," you'll know immediately, and you'll also know why.

A mad dog looks up at her owner.
credit: Cuteness

Is my dog mad at me for leaving?

So what is causing that behavior that made you Google "is my dog mad at me" in the first place? When left to guess why their dog is pouty and upset, the conclusion most dog owners draw is that their pet must be mad at them for leaving the house. Maybe you come home to a pouty dog who doesn't want to make eye contact with you, or maybe you come home to a living room full of destroyed furniture. Either way, the cause of this "you left me and now I'm going to act super weird" drama isn't anger, but boredom.

Dogs need both physical and mental stimulation every single day and if they don't get enough of either, they'll often act out. Does your dog like that you're leaving for work? Of course not. He would 100 percent rather have you home, playing with him and rubbing his belly. But is he mad at you? No. If he's acting like he's mad, try making a point of exercising his body and his mind every day before work. Take him on a long morning walk or run and do some trick training before your commute.

Signs a dog is mad.

We've already established that we need to adjust our definition of "mad" when it comes to dogs, but there are definitely signs to look out for if you want to know if something is off in puppy paradise.

Your dog might act out by breaking rules or refusing to eat his food. This is probably a sign that your dog wants more attention. Extra playtime and training will do wonders for correcting behavior we often as interpret as anger. You might notice other off-kilter behavior though, like a sudden shyness around people who your dog used to love or extra barking or growling. These are signs not of anger, but of insecurity and anxiety. The key is not to take the behavior personally and to focus on meeting your dog's social needs to correct the issues.

A mad dog forgives her owner.
credit: Cuteness

How long will a dog stay mad?

For exactly as long as the thing making him mad is happening. Remember, dogs live in the moment and, unlike humans, they don't hold grudges.

How to make my dog not mad at me?

If your dog actually is mad, then stop doing whatever is making him mad. If your dog just generally seems upset or in an off mood, then start by meeting his basic needs. Make sure your dog has physical exercise, mental stimulation, 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.

An angry dog forgives her owner.
credit: Cuteness