If you're a dog owner or live with a dog, you may find this situation to be familiar: you make your way into your bathroom, undress, and step into a steaming hot shower. Moments later, a cold, wet nose nudges its way through a crack in the door, and your dog slips inside, resting herself on your bathmat. You look down, only to see a set of large, concerned-looking eyes gazing up at you, unsure what's happening in that water-filled reprieve, and seemingly worried for your safety.
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It's not uncommon for dogs to follow their people into the restroom, but why do they sometimes look so worried when you're in the shower? While there is no sure answer to this question, there are several theories, any or all of which may apply to your concerned canine.
They're checking on you
Before you judge a dog for barging into the bathroom just to stare you down, it's important to understand how your canine friend views the space, along with the rest of the home. To us, our homes are made of separate rooms, each one serving a specific function. To a dog, however, the home is one big territory for him to patrol and secure, which is a typical dog behavior that comes from their pack mentality. When you go into the restroom alone and shut the door behind you, it may trigger a response in your dog that makes him feel as if he needs to back you up as he would any other pack member who has ventured into a strange place.
On the other hand, your dog may be offering looks of what appears to be concern and compassion for other reasons entirely. Dogs with separation anxiety tend to act out when their caretakers have left their space, and for some with severe anxiety, that may happen in as short a span a trip to the shower. According to the ASPCA, some dogs will even try to prevent their owners from leaving by engaging in symptoms like barking or whining. If your dog tends to get distressed when you leave the house and you find him insisting on being near you when you bathe or use the restroom, you may have separation anxiety issues to work out, which can be treated through counterconditioning or medication.
They have empathy because they hate baths
When your dog offers you that look of concern as you wash your hair, could it be because she simply feels, what she assumes is, your pain? While there are some exceptions, of course, most dogs are well-known for absolutely hating bath time, which may offer a reason as to why she seems upset to see her human companion being bathed. This, of course, requires empathy on your dog's part, and according to Psychology Today, that is entirely possible. Dogs are widely believed to possess the same brain capacity as human toddlers, who have shown early signs of empathetic behavior as early as two years old.
There are some disputes to this theory, however. While some toddlers may express the beginnings of empathy at two, it's more commonly noted in humans closer to the four-year mark. This suggests that, rather than empathy, your dog is simply experiencing emotional cognition, or, responding to the emotions of those around them. In order for the "I'm sorry you're getting a bath" theory to work in either of these cases, the human bathing would have to express signs of stress or upset for the dog to react to.
We’re anthropomorphizing them
Of course, it could be that none of the above answers are true after all. People are guilty of projecting human emotions onto animals all the time, and assuming that the look or behavior they display toward us when we bath is one of concern could be more of the same. It's entirely possible that, rather than concern, humans are simply misreading the facial and body language cues of their dogs, and assume that they are acting this way out of care and love, which we consider cute or admirable.