Do Dogs Feel Guilty?>
A dog’s guilty look is just a myth, experts claim
Scientists do not believe that dogs can feel complex emotions such as guilt and shame, despite their apparently guilty faces
Dog owners have long believed their pets have a distinct guilty look when they have been naughty.
Ljerka Ostojic, a research associate at Cambridge University, was one of a number of scientists who undertook research to determine whether owners were right to believe that a guilty look was a sign that a dog had been naughty.
Owners taught their dogs not to eat a biscuit within their reach. Then the owners left the room, and another person conducting the experiment removed the biscuit or encouraged the dog to eat it.
When the owner went back into the room and saw the biscuit had gone, they were asked to decide from the look on the dog’s face whether it had been eaten or not. But they could not do so.
“If that guilty look is really an expression of contrition, they would only show it when they have done wrong. But that’s not the case,”
“I had a client who had three dogs and whenever something happened like a shoe was chewed, it was always one of them that had the guilty look.
“Yet often she was not the dog who had done it. She was just the timidest dog, and got frightened more quickly by her owner’s reaction.”
Dr Susan Hazel of the University of Adelaide agreed. “There have been a number of studies and it’s pretty clear that dogs don’t feel or display guilt,” she said.
“It’s not the way their brains work.”
Elaine Henley, an animal behaviourist and lecturer in Scotland, said that dogs could feel emotions but that emotions such as guilt and jealousy were just human ideas.
“We don’t know if animals feel them and must be careful about attributing human emotions to dogs,” she said.
“The dogs in the videos don’t understand they have done wrong, so can’t be shamed into good behaviour. Often, they are just as likely to go and do the same thing again.
“So when they look guilty, they are reacting to their owner’s behaviour — the tone of voice, the gestures, maybe even the way their owner’s smell.”
There You go WOOF!!