Sunday, April 26, 2015

Putting The Guilty Dog Look To Rest?

Photos and videos of guilty looking dogs still remain quite popular. Many people feel very strongly about their dogs displaying guilt. I can sympathize, many of these dogs really do LOOK as if they felt guilty.

In spite of the research and experts saying otherwise, the myth goes on.

More over, a lot of people find it funny. I think I have a good sense of humor but there are things I don't consider funny no matter how hard I try. Slapstick comedy is completely lost one me. I don't laugh at people tripping, falling, puking or being victims of any other bodily functions.

I don't find it funny when somebody feels guilty.

Even if I subscribed to the notion that dogs do feel and display guilt, I would not find it funny, I'd find it sad.

Scientific American recently posted an article on the subject which I quite like, citing results of studies into the matter.

Do my dogs ever look guilty?

Jasmine never had the guilty look once in her life. She had the negotiation look, when she didn't like what she should or shouldn't have been doing and was trying to convince us to change our mind about it.

She never worried much about being in trouble, she had her mommy to always protect her. 

One the funniest memories is an event when Jasmine was quite little and was being scolded by Jerry. The moment I heard something was going on, I came charging to her rescue. As soon as Jasmine saw me, she ran behind me, peering at hubby from between my legs. "Whatcha gonna do now, tough guy? Mommy's here." Her expression said it all, short of her sticking out her tongue at hubby.

Cookie never had the guilty look either.

She is very sensitive and when she thinks she's in trouble she'll offer calming signals, "Please don't be mad at me, I didn't mean it." We only had to get firm with her couple of times but her response was unmistakable. "I'm not sure what I did wrong but please don't be mad at me."

We know how sensitive she is and we only use firm voice when she's on the brink of hurting herself or doing something extremely dumb and dangerous. Which, as I said, has only been a couple of times.

Roxy used to display what we thought was a guilty look.

When we came back from work and she had diarrhea all over the place, she definitely looked as if she felt guilty about the mess she made. There were few other times she came to the door looking like that. With sunken heart (nobody likes cleaning up diarrhea) we went looking for the mess but didn't find any. Why does she look guilty when she didn't do anything wrong, we were asking ourselves. Only much longer after that I figured it out.

She wasn't feeling well!

I bet if you really think about it hard enough, you'll find another explanation for your dog's guilty look. And if not, why not take the experts' word for this one?

Related articles:
From The End Of A Lead Line To Casa Jasmine: Meet Cookie, Our New Adoptee
Creative Solutions And An Incidental Product Review
Taming Of The Wild Beast: Cookie's Transition To Civilization  
Staying On Top Of The Ears: Cookie Is Not Impressed  
Who's Training Whom? Stick And Treat 
Observation Skills Of Dogs  
If You Want Your Dog To Do Something, Teach It  
Tricks? It's Not Just About The Tricks 
What Constitutes The Perfect Dog?
Are Dog Training Classes Really For The Dogs?  
Look Where You Want To Go: Finding My Reactive Dog Training Zen Zone? 
Dog Training And Emotions 
Dog Training And Emotions: Postscript
Dogs Love Sentences In Question Form?
Not All Dog Trainers Were Created Equal Either 
A Thought On Separation Anxiety
Happy One-Year Adoptoversary, Cookie!
About Freedom, Trust And Responsibility: A "Pilot Study"
So, We Have A Bear 
About Happiness: What Makes Your Dog Happy? 
Our Example Of The Use Of "Look At That" (LAT) 
Why Do Dogs Dig?
Who Is In The Wrong?
Your Dog Wants To Follow You. You Just Gotta Be Going Some Place
We Still Have Two Dogs: A "Pilot Study" Part Two  
Early Winter Safety: Exploring New Territories
Cookie Is Okay. We ... Might Be, Eventually. (Don't Try This At Home)
One Thing I Love About Winter: I See What They "See" 
Give Your Dog What They Need, Get What You Want
Cookie, The First Of The Great Hunting Rottweilers  
Distance Is a Relative Concept  
Dog Communication: Be Good to Cookie or She'll Tell on You
The Benefit of the Doubt  

Further reading:
The Guilty Looking Companion
Which Emotions Do Dogs Actually Experience?


  1. One of my dogs is very sensitive to any scowl or harsh word I give off and is ready to confess to anything. Poodles, on the other hand, are genetically incapable of guilt.

    1. The point I'm trying to make is that dogs don't know guilt. It's an emotion they don't feel.

  2. I think sometimes the "guilty look" you see on videos is simply a reaction to the human's voice.

    1. Yes, those are calming signals in reaction to being in trouble.

  3. Dogs are natural born peace negotiators :->