Study: Dogs Feel No Shame

Despite guilty looks

Even though your dog might look guilty, he isn't actually feeling any shame. (AnnaIA/Shutterstock)

No matter how guilty your dog might look after eating your slippers, he isn’t feeling any shame.  

According to behaviorists, dogs don’t feel guilt. That regretful look—ears pulled back, head lowered—is a reaction to your yelling, not the damage caused.

"Just get over it and remind yourself not to put temptation in the way next time," Dr. Bonnie Beaver, a professor at Texas A&M University's College of Veterinary Medicine and executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, told the Associated Press.

In 2009, researchers examined why dogs look so sad after misbehaving. Dogs were left alone in a room with a treat their owners had forbidden them to eat. Some dogs ate the biscuit, while others resisted, but in each case the “guilty look” was associated with the owner’s actions—not the dog’s.  

Those scientific findings haven’t prevented the growth of online dog shaming sites like DogShaming.com and ShameYourPet.com. Many of these images show dogs—surrounded by the remnants of their misdeeds—with guilt written all over their muzzles. Or at least that’s how we perceive it. 

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