Do Dogs Really Feel Guilt?

Its happened to all dog owners at least once. You come home, open the door, and find:

  • The furniture torn up
  • An "accident" on the carpet
  • Food on the counter missing
  • Fur all over the couch 
  • (insert guilt-causing activity here)

Then when you start searching for the culprit you get...the look. The "Im so sorry, please dont be mad at me, look at my really cute face" look. But is look your pup giving you, really an admission of guilt?

In some cases, absolutely. This YouTube clip, viewed by millions, shows Denver (the most adorable guilty face I have ever seen) feeling guilty after she chowed down on some kitty treats - obviously not meant for her. She cant look her human in the eye, and instead gives the most hysterical teeth baring "Im sorry" ever.

Published in the Behavioral Process Journal, Canine expert Alexandra Horowitz conducted a study to determine if what we perceive as guilt, is actually that - guilt. In the study, Dr. Horowitz told some owners that their dogs had misbehaved, when in fact they had not. Those owners said that their dogs looked guilter than the dogs who had actually misbehaved (chowed down on the treats they were told not to touch).

“Based on the experiment, ‘the look’ that we, humans, think indicates dogs’ guilt was not, in fact, prompted by their disobedience,” says Dr. Horowitz. “Instead, it appeared most when they were scolded or about to be scolded.”

So next time youre about to place blame on your pup, make sure that he is 100% guilty. In my case, I only have one dog - so thats a safe assumption. But more than anything, the guilty-face my dog gives me, rewards her! Because in turn - I feel so guilty for making her feel bad!

Check out Denver, our favorite guilty dog, looking much happier on ABCs Good Morning America !

Do your dogs have the guilty face? Share it on our Facebook page!

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