A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

13 Revealing Secrets Your Dog Knows About You

Dogs notice when you're sad, mad, or suspicious. They can even detect cancer. Turns out, dogs know more about your emotions and health than you ever suspected.

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black woman holding a yorkshire dog
Daniele Esprega/Shutterstock

You’re a generous person (or not)

I make judgments about you based on your actions. University of Milan researchers had dogs watch some people sharing food with a beggar and other people telling the beggar to leave. Later, when the individuals beckoned the dogs at the same time, the pups overwhelmingly trotted over to the generous people.

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hand of man caress little scared dog from shelter posing outside in sunny park, adoption concept
Bogdan Sonjachnyj/Shutterstock

You don’t like someone

When you have negative feelings about a person, I can hear your breathing pattern change, observe your body stiffen slightly, and even smell the subtle pheremones your body emits. So if your in-laws suspect that I don’t like them, it may simply be because, um, you don’t really like them. Speaking of smells, this is why your dog’s breath smells so bad.

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Young hansome male having fun with his lovely dog, snuggling, stroking and petting, sitting on the grass. Close friendship between owner and pet. Best friend. Animal shelter.

Where you’ve been

You humans are like sponges. You pick up volatile organic compounds from everything you walk by or touch. If you just visited, say, the supermarket, I will smell the butcher and fish counters, the food you bought, and maybe even the people you stood next to at checkout. I can smell something 100 million times more subtle than the faintest smell you can pick up.

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Morning walk with dog (black labrador retriever). Young man is training his puppy walking on the leash.
Jaromir Chalabala/Shutterstock

You may have cancer

Some of us are being taught to detect different types of cancer by smelling certain chemicals that cancer cells can emit. In some studies, we were 88 percent accurate in detecting breast cancer, and 99 percent accurate in detecting lung cancer. Look out for these other silent signs that your dog is sick.

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A beautiful brown standard Poodle looking out of the window waiting for her owner. Dog is human's best and faithful friend concept.
Min C. Chiu/Shutterstock

You’re coming home

We’ve learned your schedule, and we know roughly when to expect you back at the house each day. But even if you an get home at an odd hour, I can pick out the sound of your particular car coming down the street, and I am always listening for it.

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Young couple of caucasian male and female with beagle in dining room
Katsiaryna Pakhomava/Shutterstock

You’ve had a fight with your spouse

Even if you don’t yell in front of me, I may notice your clipped tone of voice, the fact that neither of you is speaking, the stiffness of your posture, or the agitated way you’re walking or opening drawers. Some of us get sick to our stomachs when our owners are bickering.

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Happy family playing with their dog in bed.

You need protection

Do I sleep cuddled up next to your bed instead of in my usual spot when your spouse is out of town? Do I stay closer to your leg than normal when we walk through a dark area? I can smell the adrenaline your body releases when you’re scared, and I’m also more vigilant anytime someone in the household is missing. These are the 8 sure signs that your dog trusts you.

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Small dog maltese sitting in the suitcase or bag and waiting for a trip
Monika Wisniewska/Shutterstock

You’re going on a trip

I hate it when you leave, so I’ve learned to pick up on all the clues when a departure is imminent–suitcases pulled from the closet or the way you always spread clothes out on your bed. Some of us start to shake and pant because our anxiety spikes. Feel bad? One study found playing classical music for us when we’re alone can help us calm down. Make sure you avoid these mistakes every dog owner makes.

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Pit Bull Shepherd Dog Wrapped in Blanket Cozy Nap in Bed Holding Owner's Hand
N K/Shutterstock

You’re a sucker for our puppy dog eyes

Researchers have found that your body releases the hormone oxytocin (the same chemical that’s released when you look at your baby) when we make eye contact with you. So there’s a reason we gaze at you lovingly when we want something: It works.

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Young female training labrador retriever dog on the beach at sunset

What your intentions are

I can pick up nearly imperceptible signals in your body language—a darting of your eyes or the way you grab the leash—that tell me what you’re planning. In one study, dogs were easily able to identify the location of hidden food simply by following a human gaze. Check out these 19 things your dog actually wants from you.

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Therapy Dog receives a comforting stroke from a hospice patient.
Dennis Sabo/Shutterstock

You’re not feeling well

We can be trained to sniff out everything from a drop in your blood sugar to a migraine. A growing number of epileptic patients are getting dogs that alert them to a seizure before it happens. In one Hawaiian hospital, dogs sniffed out urinary tract infections in paralyzed patients who couldn’t report symptoms. Here are 11 more superpowers that all dogs have.

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Little baby boy with boxer dog on a couch at home
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Your baby is weak

I know your little one is a member of my pack, and I also know she’s the most vulnerable. Because I have a strong instinct to guard my family members, I can be extremely protective. That’s why I bark aggressively when someone approaches the stroller and why you should be vigilant if someone is playing with your child while I’m around. (If I mistakenly think she is getting hurt, I may attack.)

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Shepherd mix puppy dog makes funny face lying on shag rug carpet at home
N K/Shutterstock

You’re bummed out

I am a master at reading your body language and emotional state. One study found that I can tell if someone’s sad simply by reading facial expressions (even if I’m looking at a photo of just half a face!). I’m also more likely to approach someone who is crying than someone humming or talking, an indication of empathy. Next, find out the 30 things your dog wishes you knew.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest