Are Dogs Capable of Experiencing Guilt?

By February 23 | See Comments

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Are Dogs Capable of Experiencing Guilt?
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Ducked head, doleful eyes, lowered ears- you know that look- from when you get home and tell off your pet for chewing on the slippers or tearing up the pillow. So, does that mean that your dog understands complex emotions like guilt? Most pet owners believe that they do, all courtesy of the endless number of dog shaming videos online that they stands as evidence. Let's take a look at how true the dog remorse is, and what research studies have shown.

The guilty dog experiment

Veterinary scientists have conducted numerous experiments to study the behavior of dogs, in particular if they feel guilt or otherwise. In one experiment, researchers left dogs alone with treats and had their owners leave the room, allowing the dog to eat it when the owner was not around; the owner came into the room to see that the treat had been eaten by their pet. In the other part of the experiment, the owner left the dog in a room with treats, only this time, the researchers removed the treats; when the owners returned, they believed that the dogs had eaten the treats anyway. The reaction of the dogs was observed in both cases to see if they showed signs of guilt. It was seen that the dogs acted guilty in both cases.The researchers concluded that the dog's guilty expression had little to do with their acts, and more to do with their owner's reactions. When the dog's saw their owners telling them off or take an angry stance, they automatically assumed a guilty look. According to researchers, dogs assume the guilty stance in such situations simply because through thousands of years of domestication they have learned to adapt to live harmoniously with humans. So when they see a glowering expression they naturally act submissive. Dog's are not wired to experience emotions like guilt. They are just responding to the accusatory tone or body language of their owners in such situations.

Get to the bottom of destructive dog behavior

So the next time your dog does something wrong, know that shaming him will not help correct the behavior. There is a good chance that your dog will repeat it again, as a scolding will not have them rectify it, even if they show a guilty expression. If your dog shows

destructive behavior

like chewing up shoes or sofa, then you do not want to trivialize it. A fifth of dogs suffer from separation anxiety which causes them to show destructive behavior when their owners are not around. You want to seek professional help if your dog has a severe case of separation anxiety or help it cope with it through

training

.

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