Have you noticed your dog having their ears back, head cowered and eyes drooped after doing some naughty things? You may think that their body language is expressing guilt. But the question remains: Can they experience guilt as we humans do? Do dogs feel guilt or shame?
The truth is, while there is no scientific evidence that dogs actually feel guilt or shame, there is also no proof that they don’t. Continue reading to see if guilt really means anything to your dog.
What Triggers the Guilty Appearance in Your Dog?
Researchers believe that the reason for a dog’s guilty appearance is in response to the owner’s body language.
After a tiresome day, returning home just to find a mess caused by your dog can make anyone angry. At such times, you may use an accusatory tone and angry body language. Your dog can pick up your angry body language to determine that you’re mad at them.
Your dog might then show submissive behavior. Most people believe this response to be guilt but that’s not the case. If you scold them or point at them even if they didn’t do anything wrong, your dog would show the same response.
Imagine your dog peed on the carpet hours ago and you’re scolding them now. Your pup will automatically become submissive without knowing why you’re angry at them. You could interpret the submission as guilt, but it is, in fact, stress and anxiousness.
Next time, if they pee in the house, they might already be afraid that you will get angry. They may be cowering, hiding, and shaking even before seeing the owner. This kind of behavior isn’t caused by guilt but rather by fear and confusion.
Behavior Change in Dogs
It is your dog’s best interest to keep you happy. Imagine your dog bringing garbage in the house, and you scolded them on the spot. Since then, your pooch has stopped getting junk in the house. So, was it guilt that made them stop?
No. Your dog wants you to be happy. It’s not because of the guilt but rather the feeling of wanting to please you that made your dog stop bringing in the garbage.
You might also be interested in Do Dogs Have Feelings?
What To Do If Your Dog’s Been Naughty?
As mentioned before, dogs do things based on instinct, so they can’t feel guilt. Meaning, there isn’t much you can accomplish just by scolding your pup for doing something wrong.
Still, you can try to correct unwanted behaviors if you act quickly. For instance, if you find your dog chewing your shoe, act calmly, say no and replace the shoe for something your pooch can chew like a dog chew toy.
But if the unwanted behavior has gone on for a long time, it isn’t easy to correct it. Try finding the cause of the unwanted behavior in your pooch.
Most dogs display destructive behavior due to stress, boredom, or frustration. It might be the same for your dog. If that’s the case, try indulging your pup in various physical and mental challenges and try not to leave them alone in the house for a long time.
There is no scientific evidence to explain that dogs do feel guilt. But this doesn’t mean they don’t show their guilty face after you’ve scolded them for messing with the cushions or the kitchen counter. It’s just that your dog becomes submissive to your behavior when they have done something wrong.
Thank you for reading the article.
Now that you know whether dogs can feel guilt, explore more other dog feelings-related articles that you might be interested in.
How does your dog react when you scold them? Do they cower and whine? Or do they start showing more destructive behaviors? We would love to hear from you. Please share with our community by leaving a comment below!