Can Dogs Cry? (How Does It Happen?)



A Looney Tunes rerun where a dog cries got me asking “Do dogs cry?” It may seem like a simple question but the answer is more complicated. It also largely depends on how you mean: do dogs cry. Let’s look at the various different meanings when asking do dogs cry.

Dogs Can Decipher Human Emotion

Something fascinating about dogs is that they are able to read human facial expressions. If you’re feeling down your dog knows and tries to comfort you. Additionally, dogs are more likely to submissively approach someone that is crying.


Dogs can read human feelings and try to comfort you

A recent study shows it goes beyond reading our facial expressions for dogs. They are also able to match vocalization to the appropriate emotion.

These tests were conducted in a foreign language so that no word associations could be made by the canines and using human subjects unknown to the 17 dogs. But judging by the tone, the dogs were almost always right and lingered on the matching facial expressions.

Dogs are able to mimic the facial expressions of other dogs suggesting that they may feel empathy.

Canines do have emotions. They may not have the same range of emotions but they do feel fear, happiness, stress, anxiety, sadness, excitement, and anger.

So do dogs cry to express emotion and do dogs cry tears? 

Do Dogs Cry To Express Emotions?

Yes, dogs do cry but not the same as us. It’s also not like Mark Anthony crying tears of loss in Looney Tunes.

Dogs cry through vocalization. This could be howling, whining, and whimpering. A dog will also yelp when hurt like when someone accidentally steps on his/her tail.

Puppies cry to get the attention their mothers when they need something, very much like a human baby cries to indicate to his/her parents that something is wrong.

Because canine hearing is more advanced than ours but their sight isn’t, they respond better to these types of audio signals of distress than visual ones.

As adults, dogs cry as a means of communicating, usually to get your attention and indicate that something is amiss as well. This may be when they need to go outside to do their business or want to play.  

Dogs cry from learned behavior as well. This means they see that by making a certain sound, they elicit a reaction from their humans and so they continue to do this, rather manipulatively, when they want something.


Dogs cry when they are scared or stressed too.

For example, a dog that whimpers in certain situations knows he/she might be coddled or comforted through petting or being picked up.

They also rely greatly on body language to convey the emotion that they are feeling.

To a degree dogs also experience loss but again, sadness to a dog isn’t the same as it is for humans. Some dogs cry if you take his/her toy or treat away. This is most prevalent in dogs that suffer from separation anxiety who cry because their human is away.

Do Dogs Cry Tears?

Firstly, if you have a light colored dog like a Maltese, you may have noticed discoloration and staining around the eyes resembling streaks of tears. Some breeds are more prone to being continuously teary-eyed (epiphora).

So yes, dogs’ eyes are able to produce tears through tears ducts but it not due to emotion. This is what some refer to as “real tears.”

Humans are the only species that cry to exhibit emotional distress although some argue that elephants cry to express emotion too. It is also worthy of note that elephants are the only animals that bury and mourn their dead, but that is something to ponder another day.

Instead, as the biological structure of dogs’ eyes differs from ours, tears have a more practical purpose. Basal tears keep the eyes moist and can also be a reflex to rinse irritants like a speck of dirt or an eyelash out of the eye. 


Moreover, dogs’ basal tears drain back into the throat and nose instead of spilling out of the eyes like ours do. 

This doesn’t mean that just because dogs don’t cry “real tears” that they are not capable of emotions. They just express it differently to us.

Medical Conditions That Cause Dog’s “Crying”

Dogs cry in the sense that tears are formed due to medical conditions as well.

These include:

  • Allergies
  • Infection
  • Blocked tear ducts
  • Scratched cornea

If dogs “cry” and their eyes are watery for an extended period of time, please take your dog to the vet. Also, if you note that tears are yellow, have a mucus-like texture or there is blood.


So, in answering the question: Do dogs cry? Yes, dogs do cry through vocalization for communication and although dogs are emotional and sensitive creatures, they do not cry tears to display their feelings like cute cartoon dogs cry.

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