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Drinking Habits

Does My Dog Know If I'm Drunk?

April 4, 2024
13 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
April 4, 2024
13 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
April 4, 2024
13 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
April 4, 2024
13 min read
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Reframe Content Team
April 4, 2024
13 min read

Staying Connected to Our Furry Friend

  • Dogs can usually tell when their owners have been drinking due to their remarkable sense of smell and ability to pick up on behavioral changes.
  • Being aware of how our drinking habits might be affecting our pet negatively is the first step toward being a better pet owner.
  • If you’re wanting to change your drinking habits and be a better pet owner, Reframe can help you with the tools to begin your cutback journey.

You come home later than expected after a Sunday funday, and your dog gives you a funny look. You apologize to your furry friend for making her wait this long for a walk. As you head out the door with her pulling at the leash, a thought dawns on you, “Does my dog know that I’ve been drinking? Does she recognize the smell of alcohol or notice any changes in my behavior?”

If you’ve wondered this, you’re not alone. Let’s dive in together to learn how our drinking can affect our furry friends.

How Can Dogs Tell If We've Been Drinking?

A sad dog lying on the floor

It may come as a surprise to find out that yes, dogs can tell if we’ve been drinking! Our canine companions are actually very sensitive when it comes to detecting if we had a few beers at happy hour.

How can our dog tell if we’ve quaffed one or two too many?

Sense of Smell

Dogs have an incredibly keen sense of smell, estimated to be tens of thousands of times more sensitive than humans’ sense of smell. That’s pretty impressive, right? Dogs can detect the faintest of odors, including those produced by alcohol metabolites in our body and those lingering on our breath. In other words, if we can smell a faint hint of alcohol on our own breath, imagine how much this smell is heightened for our scent-sensitive dog. 

Furthermore, when we drink alcohol, our bodies metabolize it into various byproducts, including compounds like ethanol and acetaldehyde. These compounds are excreted through breath, sweat, and skin, creating detectable odors that dogs can pick up.

Changes in Behavior

Dogs are highly attuned to changes in our behavior and body language. Ever notice how dogs seem to intuitively know when we’re upset or sad? The same goes for our acting differently when we’re drinking or drunk.

Dogs may notice subtle differences in our movements, speech patterns, and interactions after we’ve consumed alcohol, clueing them in to our altered state. Perhaps we’re a bit uncoordinated with our movements, we’re talking louder than usual, or we absentmindedly leave the TV or radio blaring all night. Remember that our dogs are also sharing the environment we create, whether good or bad. 

Training and Recognition

Keep in mind that many dogs have gone through some type of training — some of which may be specialized. For example, some dogs are specifically trained to detect the scent of alcohol as part of their roles in law enforcement or search and rescue operations. Although not all dogs go through such rigorous training, those that are trained to smell alcohol may show signs of concern, curiosity, or even avoidance when they sense the presence of alcohol around them. Rescue dogs or adopted pets may also have a history related to alcohol that we may not be aware of.

Disruptions to Their Routine

Dogs are typically very detail-oriented, and they grow accustomed to a certain daily ritual and sense of order. For example, if we typically feed our dog in the morning around 9 and walk our dog in the afternoon around 5, they will notice something is off when we deviate from this routine. Did we sleep in later than expected because we were hungover from a late night of drinking? Did we forget to refill their water bowl before we passed out? Oops. Our dog will notice and may wonder whether something’s wrong.

We certainly don’t want to upset our furry friends, but we all make mistakes once in a while. Yet we may find ourselves wondering if we are a neglectful dog owner because of our drinking habits. Let’s look at some signs that our dog may be feeling neglected.

Signs Our Dog Feels Neglected

Being a conscientious pet parent means we should always be aware of how our behavior could affect our pets. Here are some common signs that our pet might be feeling neglected due to our drinking patterns.

  • More accidents in the house. If we’re consistently missing our pet’s usual potty time or forgetting to let them out due to our drinking habits, our pet will start to notice. We may notice they’re having more accidents in the house or in strange places. Chances are, they’re trying to get our attention. Dogs can even develop serious bladder problems from trying to hold it for extended periods of time because they’re waiting for us to return. We should put ourselves in their place: How would we feel if we were made to wait that long?
  • Increased anxiety. Because our pets are highly sensitive to our behavior, we may be putting them on edge because they no longer know what to expect when we add alcohol to the mix. Our dog may even begin to recognize the smell of alcohol as a sign of danger and immediately begin to feel tense. If a dog is exposed to this kind of erratic behavior regularly, they may become nervous, agitated, and untrusting of other people.
  • Behavioral issues. Untreated anxiety or stress could also lead to behavioral issues in our usually friendly and happy-go-lucky dog. If we’re starting to notice them acting erratically or are suddenly fearful or untrusting of other people, this may be a sign we need to take a look at how our drinking may be affecting our canine buddy.

If you’re relating to any of these points, you may want to take a look at switching up your drinking habits. Check out this blog for some motivational tips on how to get started on making healthy changes.

How Dogs Detect Alcohol Consumption

Tips for Being a Conscientious Pet Parent

Speaking of healthy changes, if you’re ready to make some better choices to ensure you’re an amazing pet parent, here are some tips to keep in mind.

  • Be conscious of your drinking habits. As we’ve highlighted throughout this article, the first step is being aware of how your drinking habits may be affecting your pet. Practice drinking in moderation and be mindful of your behavior when drinking around your pet. 

  • Arrange for a pet sitter. If you know you’re going to be out late or potentially stay the night at a friend’s house, plan ahead. Arrange for a pet sitter to watch your dog or call a friend to check on your pup. Your canine companion will thank you for it!

  • Keep alcohol out of reach. Always keep alcohol out of reach of pets. Alcohol is very dangerous for dogs to ingest. We recognize that spills and accidents do happen, but always keep a close eye on your dog and contact your vet immediately if they ingest alcohol. 

Being a better pet owner is one of many benefits to cutting back on alcohol. If you’re curious about reexamining your drinking habits, it’s never too late to start.

The Bottom Line

Although our dog isn’t judging us for getting drunk, our drinking habits do affect our canine companion. Now that we’re aware of the impact a tipsy evening can have on our four-legged friend, we have some extra motivation to be a more conscientious pet parent when it comes to our drinking habits. Our dog will definitely thank us for it!

Summary FAQs

1. Can dogs tell if we’ve been drinking?

Yes, dogs can tell if we’ve been drinking by changes in our smell, behavior, and routine. This is related to their remarkable senses of smell and patterns and could also be informed by any special training they may have had.

2. Do dogs like alcohol?

Dogs may sip up a spilled beer or alcoholic drink, but alcohol is very dangerous for dogs, and you should always keep it out of reach.

3. How do dogs react to alcohol?

Dogs may react to alcohol in a variety of ways, including anxiety, stress, fear, or erratic behavior.

4. What do I do if my dog drank alcohol by accident?

Alcohol is very dangerous for dogs. Contact your veterinarian immediately or seek out an animal hospital in extreme cases.

Ready to Develop Healthier Drinking Habits? Reframe Can Help!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet hundreds of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today! 

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