All of a sudden your dog avoids meeting your direct eye contact. Their ears are sort of pinned-back and they may be trying to make themselves look small. The tail may or may not be wagging uncontrollably (they just can’t help it sometimes!). Looking around you discover a large puddle.
Now their behavior and body language make all the sense in the world!
Your pup knows they shouldn’t have peed on the floor. But even though they appear downright ashamed at what happened, it’s actually a stretch to say that pets feel guilt.
Did You Do This?
It’s a natural instinct for pet owners to sort of interrogate their pets after an incident. Questions like: “Did you poop on the rug?” or “Where did my slippers go?” or “Why is the Rumba not working?” can go on forever. And while your pet may sort of recognize that you aren’t super-stoked about “something”, they’re unlikely to connect your reaction with whatever they did.
The only loophole to this involves timing. If you catch your pet in the act or discover their accident right after they finish making it they have a better chance of connecting your anger or frustration with their behavior.
As a result, owners will not be able to influence their pets long after their pet did something wrong.
The Best Teacher
Dogs are top-notch readers of human emotion. They appear to instinctively know that their “pack leader” is unhappy with them and express appeasement behaviors, such as:
When you see your dog looking guilty or ashamed, they are simply mirroring reactions they have seen previously in their special person. Of course, they are! That’s one of the great reasons humans love dogs. They see and mimic us, and we interpret those signs as understanding our thought processes.
Pets Feel Guilt
The bottom line is that a dog’s brain is similar to a small human child’s developing brain. Sure, many dogs are incredibly clever and sharp. However, when it comes to complex human emotions like shame and guilt, they really cannot make the leap.
There is sizable research indicating that dogs do fully experience a range of other emotions, like joy, disgust, fear, anxiety, and yes, love. Your pet also has a great sense of humor!
So Simple, Yet So Complex
Your pet is a unique animal. And while they are an individual, but they do have many traits in common with other members of their breed or species.
If you ever have any questions or concerns decoding your pet’s behavior or personality traits, please give us a call. Our veterinarians and staff members are always here for you at Animal Kind Veterinary Hospital.