Why Dogs Don't Cry



Have you ever wondered if dogs can cry tears of sadness or joy like humans do? While dogs can be emotional creatures that show sadness and happiness, dogs do not cry. Well, not in the way humans do anyway. They may show pain and sadness by whining and howling, but dogs do not seem to cry as an emotional response. This is because dogs are wired differently than humans are. When humans see tears, we automatically think that person is sad or hurt. This is because our brains are hardwired into our tear ducts and emotions. However, dogs feel emotions in different ways and their emotions are not as complex as ours.

The Root of the Behavior

Professor Ad Vingerhoets once stated that, "In the sense of producing emotional tears, we are the only species." Outside of humans, there has been no proof that any other living creature cries actual tears from emotional distress. Charles Darwin truly believed that human tears have no modern adaptive function. There have been so many studies done on why humans cry emotionally, however, there has not been enough data to show why we actually do and if it serves a health-related purpose. On the other hand, dogs do not cry. Well not tears, anyway. However, dogs absolutely have emotion but, unlike humans, their distress emotions do not produce liquid tears. Instead, all dogs show pain and sadness vocally by yelping, howling, or even whining. A dog may whine or even whimper when they are anxious or want your attention. A dog may also yelp or make noises when he is in sudden pain. However, if the dog’s pain is more chronic or ongoing, most dogs often times are more silent about it.

When a dog's pain is more chronic, you often have to look for other nonverbal clues to let you know that they are in pain such as if your dog is sleeping more than usual, if he is avoiding the stairs, not going up inclines, or jumping over obstacles. Also, he may be slower than usual to get up or seems to be walking less than usual or slower than usual. Is he reluctant to jump up into the car, on the bed, or off of the couch?  These questions may show that your dog is having some more long-term pain that they are not vocalizing. If you feel that your dog may be having joint or muscular pain like this, you may want to take them to your veterinary professional to see what is going on. 

Encouraging the Behavior

If your dog has watery eyes or looks like he has been crying, there are other explanations for this symptom since this is not an emotional response. We encourage you to look into these issues and find the solution that fits best for your dog’s health issue. A dog’s tear ducts can become blocked which may lead to excessive tearing or dampness around the eye. This can lead to skin irritation if not taken care of. If you think your dog may have a blocked tear duct, be sure to make an appointment with your vet and get it looked at right away. Dogs can get eye infections. If your dog’s eyes are leaking a bloody or yellowish discharge, this is a sign of an infection. You may also notice eye irritation or swollen eyes. See a vet if you believe that your dog has an eye infection.Similar to human allergies, dogs can have allergies too. A dog can be sensitive to pollen, dander, dust, or even certain treats or foods. These allergies can cause your dog to have itchy and watery eyes. If you suspect allergies, your vet can run tests to see if your pup is allergic to anything.

If you are noticing your dog has watery eyes, he may have a scratched cornea. Scratched corneas are quite common with dogs who are really active. You may also notice that his eye is inflamed or that your dog is blinking a lot. Call your vet if you believe it is a scratched cornea. Another reason why your dog may have watery eyes or is tearing up is that he may have a small particular or speck of dirt in his eye. If this is the case, the symptoms should only be temporary. If they last longer than a day or two, get in contact with your vet because it may be a more serious problem.

Other Solutions and Considerations

Since pain does not come in the form of tears for dogs, you have to look at the whole picture. If your dog yelps in pain, use your reasoning to find out why. Did you step on his tail? Did your dog step on something painful? Did another dog nip at him? As stated above, pain is both vocal and silent in dogs. So you have to be in tune with your dog to help him through what is making him cry in pain or avoid things like the stairs. There are other things that can cause sadness or whining in a dog too. Such as separation anxiety, loneliness, and even hunger. By meeting your dogs needs and looking out for any of those symptoms you can rest assure you will have a happy pup.


Dogs don’t cry tears of sadness. If your dog has watery eyes or is tearing up, there is often times a medical condition causing this problem. Dogs do have a wonderful array of emotions like humans do, however, their emotions are just not linked to their tears like ours are. If you feel your dog has any type of ailment going on with his eyes, contact your vet to find a solution to the problem.