We’ve often seen stories that have us wondering about the levels of emotion dogs can feel, from whether or not they actually miss us humans when we’re gone to whether or not dogs can cry.  I’m a FIRM believer that dogs are very emotional and share many of the same emotions that we do.  Happy, sad, fear,etc.  The latest story to pique my attention was this one about Wiley, a service dog.

Wiley, the Service Dog

The video clip has been making the rounds on YouTube. It apparently shows the service dog “crying” at the grave of his handler’s grandmother. The dog appears to whimper and “make crying noises.”

The clip has been uploaded by sarahvarley13. In the description, she admits that she may be “anthropomorphizing” the actions of Wiley but adds that it’s how she’s choosing to deal with the loss of her grandmother.

Wiley is actually a “service wolf” that helps veterans returning from war with the program Warriors and Wolves. The program comes from the Lockwood Animal Rescue in California.

So was Wiley crying at the grave of Gladys or possibly just having a reverse sneeze? When I watch the video, it tells me otherwise and you can see the emotion on Wiley’s  face.

We often turn to animals for comfort in times of need, especially when human words won’t do the trick. The massive number of cat videos on the Internet seems a testament to our desires to bond with something furry and adorable. Dogs serve the same purpose in allowing us to decompress and to deal with our emotions in more tangible ways.

What the Science Tells Us

The science tells us that dogs do indeed shed tears, but there’s no known or discernible connection between those tears and any emotional connection. Dog loyalty can sprout from a number of places and there are countless heartbreaking stories about a pooch missing his or her owner to an incredible degree, but the actual science on the subject is minimal.

If a dog does have fluid coming out of his or her eyes, it is typically the sign of a medical issue.

Granted, Wiley is not actually emitting liquid from his eyes in the aforementioned clip and does appear to be whimpering at the grave. Could this be an expression of emotion? It’s possible.

The Comfort of Mystery

It is, as you might imagine, pretty next to impossible to nail down exactly what a dog is thinking. We can make our best guesses, but these all come through the filter of our emotions – and sometimes our hopes – and can’t really be separated from how we feel things. Dogs do feel emotions, but to what extent and of what sort is kind of a mystery.

Perhaps it’s better that way. Perhaps it’s better not knowing exactly what’s going on in Wiley’s mind and simply existing in the great joy and compassion that can be found in his eyes. Maybe the unknown is comforting in a way too. Or maybe Wiley’s emulating grief he’s seen elsewhere.

We may never have a solid answer as to whether or not dogs can cry. And we may never need one.

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Showing 10 comments
  • Patty Ruffeski

    I have a 10 year old Pug x Boston Terrier named Winston who indeed does cry, tears and all. There have been instances where I was cuddling my other dog or playing with him and Winston would be sitting a few feet away head down and waterworks flowing out his eyes! Then when I would cuddle him, wipe his tears and tell him everything was ok he would lick my face and curl up in my lap, tears gone….

    • janie

      Hi Patty!

      Awe, that’s an adorable story. Hugs to little Winston and thanks for sharing with us!


  • b w knister

    The key reason people love dogs is that they LOOK at us. They recognize us, and thereby affirm our presence and meaning in the world. Above all, when we’re reliably good to them, they trust us. This causes them to grow agitated and confused when something withdraws their source of assurance and support. Death is the most extreme instance, but I see signs of separation anxiety and depression in my dog when my wife is “missing” and shouldn’t be. My wife reports the same is true when I fail to appear.

    • janie knetzer

      Hi B W:
      Thanks for sharing your comment. Very insightful!


  • Linda Jangula

    If you have ever seen those big brown eyes looking at you with over flowing tears from the center of the eyelid (not a tear drain) begging for attention or food, you know without a doubt they do cry.

    I’ve also seen one of our little guys grieve for almost three years when we lost his very BFF, a miniature poodle named “Bogie”. He shed real tears of sadness, went into a deep state of depression and we thought we might loose him too before he finally began to enjoy life once again.

    Yes, I do believe they are capable to develop emotional ties and have very strong feelings towards their human side of the house.

    • janie knetzer

      Couldn’t agree with you more Linda. I’m always amazed when I hear someone say “it’s just a dog”. In fact, I heard it over the weekend from someone and this is a person who thinks he knows and understand dogs. Hmm.

      To know dogs is to understand how emotional they really are. You understand that they hurt just like we do. Thanks for sharing Linda.


  • wendy

    I think dogs have emotions often beyond what we can experience. It’s like beyond our spectrum. Their feelings aren’t fragmented with the mind games we play with our own feelings. How else can a dog walk hundreds or even thousands of miles to re-unite with a loved one without emotions and higher senses to drive it. They use senses and feelings beyond the abilities and scope of man’s ability to register.

    • janie knetzer

      You said that perfectly Wendy. I agree. There’s not a lot of gray area when it comes to dogs. When I look at Maggie, it often looks like she’s talking to me with her eyes. 😮

      Nice to here from you Wendy. Hope you are doing well!


  • gspal

    I read the expression of “joy” in the eyes of my Bozo when it is time to play ball. I read the expression “excitement” when I hold its body collar when it is time to go for a walk. I read the expression “unhappiness” when it is uncomfortable sleeping on its mattress and would prefer to sleep wedged between the legs of my computer chair and thus is asking me to get up. I can read the expression of “unhappiness” when it looks at me from the bowl of food given and I immediately know that it wants something else. My daughter reads “sadness/complaint” in its eyes when I am not around or is physically in pain. Bozo, an adopted male Indian Spitz, came to us with renal and bladder stones & BPH and ailments related to them. It has been on homeopathic mother tinctures in order that it too has a chance for a better life.

    • janie knetzer

      Thank you so much for sharing your feelings of Bozo’ expressions. It sounds like you are trying very hard to make sure he has good quality of life. You know your Bozo and you can read his expressions and feelings. What a good and caring owner you are.

      I’m so glad that you shared your story today.



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