Experts: Dogs Feel No Shame

'Guilty dog look' is reaction to anger

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 27, 2014 3:14 AM CST

(Newser) – Every dog owner knows the "guilty dog" look that has made sites like Dogshaming.com a hit, but animal behavior experts say the pooches don't really feel ashamed at all, the AP finds. Researchers have found that the droopy-eyed, cowering look dogs give angry owners is a reaction to the anger, not any expression of guilt over shoe-chewing or food-stealing that happened hours earlier. "I don't think dogs actually feel shame," says Pascal Lemire, creator of Dogshaming.com and author of the book the same name. "I think they know how to placate us with this sad puppy-dog look that makes us think they're ashamed of what they've done."

A psychologist who researched the "guilty dog look" says "the 'look' appeared most often when owners scolded their dogs, regardless of whether the dog had disobeyed or did something for which they might or should feel guilty. It wasn't 'guilt' but a reaction to the owner that prompted the look." She adds that while it's possible that dogs may feel guilt, there is a difference between that and shame, and the "guilty look" is no sign of either. In Tulsa, Okla., meanwhile, two dogs are presumably feeling no shame after going for a joyride in their owner's pickup, Fox 23 reports. Their owner says he briefly left them alone in the truck and one of them put it into gear, sending it three blocks down a hill. It came to a stop in a riverbed and while the dogs were fine, the truck was badly damaged.

No shame on display here, animal behaviorists say.
No shame on display here, animal behaviorists say.   (Shutterstock)
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