Johannesburg: A new study suggests that no matter how guilty your dog looks, it doesn’t know what your shouting about.
Behaviourists insist dogs lack shame, News24.com reported.
The guilty look – head cowered, ears back, eyes droopy – is a reaction to the tantrum you are throwing now over the damage they did hours earlier.
Dr Bonnie Beaver, a professor at Texas A and M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviourists, said to just get over it and remind oneself not to put temptation in the way next time.
One of the first scientific studies on the “guilty dog look” was conducted in 2009 by Alexandra Horowitz, an associate professor of psychology at Barnard College in New York City. One of her books, “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know,” included the findings.
In the study, she used 14 dogs, videotaping them in a series of trials and studying how they reacted when an owner left the room after telling them not to eat a treat.
When the owners returned, sometimes they knew what the dogs had done and sometimes they didn’t and sometimes the dogs had eaten the treats and sometimes they hadn’t.
She found that the ‘look’ appeared most often when owners scolded their dogs, regardless of whether the dog had disobeyed or did something for which they might or should feel guilty. It wasn’t ‘guilt’ but a reaction to the owner that prompted the look.
“I am not saying that dogs might not feel guilt, just that the ‘guilty look’ is not an indication of it,” she added. She also believes there is a difference between guilt and shame.