Is My Dog Mad At Me?

You’ve just come home after a long day. But instead of meeting you at the door with the usual wet kisses and tail wags, your dog stays curled up in their favorite chair, watching you. What gives? Is your dog mad at you?

While experts know that dogs experience a full range of primary mammalian emotions, including anger, research into secondary emotions in dogs remains relatively young, says Jessica Pierce, PhD, a bioethicist and author.

To put it simply, experts don’t fully understand how dogs might experience and express more complex emotions like resentment.

Of course, dogs can certainly get angry! That said, the signs you might interpret as them being mad at you—like growling, ignoring you, or not wanting to be pet—may actually mean they’re responding to a change in their environment.

Here’s how to recognize signs of irritation or distress in your dog, plus what you can do to help.

3 Signs Your Dog Isn’t Happy

Changes in your dog’s body language or behavior can mean something’s wrong. Still, your dog may not necessarily be mad at you.

Here are some signs to pay attention to and a few explanations for these behaviors.

Body language

If you notice your dog licking their lips, yawning excessively, and averting their gaze (sometimes called “whale eye”) it might seem like they’re annoyed.

These expressions usually suggest anxiety, however, and dogs may use them in response to a stressful situation. You can try to calm an anxious pup by offering them a treat, speaking calmly, and giving them some space.


Dogs make plenty of sounds, and they don’t always mean the same thing! Growling is one noise that can have a range of meanings.

For instance, growling could mean your dog wants you to back off and give them some space, particularly if  you’ve followed them into another room after they left. This doesn’t automatically mean they’re angry—just that they want some time on their own.

But dogs also growl when they’re happy and want to play with you. It’s important to pay attention to other clues in their behavior to understand what they’re trying to communicate.

Dog rests quietly on blanket in chair

Anna-av via iStock

Behavior changes

Pierce notes that pet parents should be cautious when assigning a particular emotion to their dogs, as it’s not always possible to interpret a dog’s feelings by their behavior.

Some changes in behavior to pay attention to, and their possible causes:

  • They’re ignoring you: If your dog seems distant or less interested in the usual pets and cuddles, they could be tired or not feeling well. This behavior change could also be a sign of depression, which can affect dogs after a major life change—like the loss of a pet parent or other pet or the addition of a new family member.
  • They’re less affectionate: Does your dog usually snuggle and slobber all over you but suddenly seem distant? They could have an illness or injury. Dogs will often try to hide discomfort, so if they suddenly don’t seem like themselves, it’s worth checking them out or contacting your vet.
  • They’re hiding: Dogs often hide when they’re nervous or afraid of something. You’ve probably even noticed this behavior during fireworks or a particularly noisy storm—or when you pull out the vacuum cleaner. If your dog hides a lot, you may want to keep track of other possible signs of stress.
  • Peeing in the house: Dogs don’t pee in the house to spite you or because they want to annoy you. This behavior also happens due to stress or anxiety. Dogs are more likely to urinate indoors when coping with a sudden life change, like another pet, or when dealing with separation anxiety.
  • Destructive chewing: destructive dog is more likely bored or anxious, not angry! If you notice your dog tearing things up at home, consider giving them something to chew or play with while you’re gone. Destructive behaviors are also a sign of separation anxiety.

When To Ask A Vet About Your Dog’s Anger

Any sudden changes in your dog’s behavior are cause for concern—especially because many of the behaviors people interpret as anger or annoyance are signs of pain.

Signs of pain in dogs include:

  • Aggression toward people or other pets
  • Snapping or baring teeth
  • Isolating themselves
  • Not wanting to play
  • Incontinence

If you notice any of these behaviors, it’s best to contact your vet right away. They can check your dog’s health and help find the source of their distress.

What Makes A Dog Mad At You?

Dogs experience both rage, a more intense form of anger, and fear. These primary emotions are closely connected.

It’s natural for dogs to feel anger toward someone who attacks them or restrains them—two behaviors that activate the “fight or flight” response.

Generally, you don’t need to worry about your dog getting mad at you for things that don’t trigger fight or flight signals, like skimping on treats or leaving them at home when you go to work. (Sure, they missed you! But they’re probably just delighted you’ve come home.)

Pierce notes that the body language of an angry or threatened dog will include flattened ears, bared teeth, and frequent lip licking.

She recommends dog parents learn the right way to respond to an angry dog: Be extremely cautious, avoid approaching, and don’t provoke them any more.

Dog stretches out in dog bed alone

huettenhoelscher via iStock

How To Improve Your Dog’s Mood

Now that you have a better understanding of what causes certain dog behaviors, you can take steps to help them feel better!

If you have taken your dog to the vet and know they aren’t sick or in pain, you can work on addressing the other possible causes of your dog’s unhappiness.

  • Depression: If your dog seems down in the dumps, you can try to lift their mood with enriching activities such as walks, food puzzles, and puppy play dates.
  • Stress: Removing your dog from any environment that causes stress can help them calm down. Additionally, a treat-dispensing dog toy can help distract your dog when you can’t completely avoid stressful situations, like a car ride or visitor.
  • Destructive chewing: High-energy dogs might just need more exercise. If you need help getting your dog their daily activity, Rover has you covered. Book a trusted local pet sitter or dog walker to help you out today.
  • Separation anxiety: A trainer or behaviorist can help you address separation anxiety and offer more guidance on soothing this specific type of stress. For extreme cases of separation anxiety, your vet may recommend anti-anxiety medication.

Sometimes your dog may just want to chill on their own—much like you! That’s why it’s a good idea to provide a safe space in your home so they can retreat when they need some alone time. Avoid touching them or interacting with them when they go to that space.

In most cases, paying attention to your dog’s communication and body language can help you understand their mood and needs, which can help you develop and strengthen your bond.

And remember, even when your dog needs a break, they probably aren’t mad at you, and they still love you.

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