That ‘Guilty’ Look That Your Dog Is Giving You Isn’t Actually Guilt They’re Scared

Every dog owner knows the telltale seem of a puppy who did something it wasn’t supposed to do.

Maybe she pooped on the floor. Maybe she chewed through your favorite couch cushion, or the carpet on the stairs.

You know she did something she shouldn’t have done and, apparently, she does too. Since you’re every human being, you see that appear and ascribe a common human emotion to it: guilt.

All the logic lines up: Your puppy was left alone, did something they weren’t supposed to do now do( that they know better than to do ), and when they’re called on it, their face says it all. Perhaps you’re already saying “No! Bad dog! Bad dog! ” or some difference thereof.

The truth is, despite your logical summation, the dog isn’t mood remorse. Instead, they’re carrying a much more common, least complex emotion: fear.


Don’t just take my term for it: That declaration is based on a 2009 analyze be carried out in dog cognition scientist Dr. Alexandra Horowitz, author of 2009’s “Inside of a Puppy: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know” and 2016’s “Being a Puppy: Following the Dog Into a World of Smell.”

Dr. Horowitz’s 2009 examine, “Disambiguating the ‘guilty look’: salient promptings to a familiar bird-dog behavior, ” specifically focuses on the concept of how humen interpret dog feelings through the scope of human emotion. More simply: Humen tend to misattribute puppy emotions based on human feelings. The “guilty” look is a prime example of this.

“I look at a bird-dog demonstrating the guilty looking and it feels guilty to me. It does! We’re kind of wired to see it this way, so it’s nobody’s flaw, ” Dr. Horowitz told me in a recent interview.

The look is distinct: The dog huddles, presenting the whites of its eyes while appearing up at you. Maybe it pins its ears back to its psyche, yawns, or licks the air. These are all characteristic signs of anxiety in a puppy signs that us humans tend to misattribute as guilt.


Horowitz’s 2009 study is a clear show of how humen tend to anthropomorphize their puppies. Here’s how such studies moved, and what it exposed, based on the abstract 😛 TAGEND

“Trials varied the chances of dogs to disobey an owner’s command to not feed a desirable treat while the owner was out of the room, and differed the owners’ knowledge of what their bird-dogs did in their absence.”

“The outcomes disclosed no difference in behaviours associated with the guilty seem. By contrast, more such behaviors were considered to be in trials when proprietors scolded their puppies. The effect of scold was more pronounced when the dogs were obedient , not disobedient.”

“These makes indicate that a better described in the so-called guilty appear is that it is a response to owner cues, rather than that it proves an appreciation of a misdeed.”

The website “Dog Shaming” is dedicated to ascribing remorse to our canine cohorts.

Flickr/ Maja Dumat

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