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Do dogs show shame when they've misbehaved: The dog chewed my jacket

Behaviorists say that dogs lack shame despite the "guilty look." Actually they are just reacting to being scolded.
Behaviorists say that dogs lack shame despite the "guilty look." Actually they are just reacting to being scolded.
Dog Shame/ Facebook

Every dog owner likes to think those guilty looks Fido sports before you after he chewed up your favorite sandals - with his head down, ears back, and sad eyes is the remorseful face of your best friend, but for years we have known that is really not true. Dogs react to their humans calling them "bad dog" or "look what you've done." Studies show they don't associate being yelled at because of something they did hours before you arrived home.

The Associated Press has taken another avenue about "the look" or "he knows," and lightheartedly directs our attention to Facebook sites created to embarrass our canine friends with their alleged guilty looks; often with a sign next to Fido, explaining their particular shameful behavior.

On Facebook, DogShame, where photos of dogs doing the most dastardly deeds with the most sorrowful faces are posted for everyone to enjoy. The site has over 71,000 "likes." Often the evidence of the pooch's deeds are included in the photo.

So what's the scientific proof that dogs don't really feel any remorse? In 2009, Alexandra Horowitz, an assistant professor of psychology at Barnard College in New York City published a book on dog reactions and those "guilty dog looks."

Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know, included an experiment using 14 dogs and their owners. During the experiment, a treat was left for each dog, and as the owner left the room, the owner ordered the dog not to eat the treat.

The results; some of the owners knew if their dogs ate the treat sometimes, and some of the owners didn't know if their dogs ate the treat sometimes leaving Dr. Horowitz with the decision that humans can't really tell by a dog's face if their pet is feeling shame; it's more of a reaction to the scolding, and perhaps little Fido's way to stop you from yelling at him.

"I am not saying that dogs might not feel guilt," Horowitz states, "it's just that 'guilty look' is not an indication of it."

Still all one has to do is visit one of the popular sites both on Twitter and various social media networks to see dogs and cats with the most "shameful" looks.

Pascale Lemire, the creator of Dog agrees that dogs are incapable of guilty emotions, and agrees that dogs have figured out how to use "faces" to calm their humans down. His Facebook site amusingly states however:

"Has your dog done something naughty? Post a photo with a sign telling us what it is they have done.. That will teach them... Right? Everyone loves a good shaming."

Let's face it. Dogs speak a different language.

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