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  • Writer's pictureDasher Pet Care

"The Guilty Look" May Not Be Connected To Guilt

What They're Really Feeling

We all know that feeling. That slow, creeping, spine-tingling, hair-raising feeling of being betrayed by your dogfriend. I mean, she KNEW not to chew on any of the pillows, and definitely not the special ones Memaw made by hand!

Steaming mad you look at the mess and call out her name. "STELLA!" Stella slowly approaches the living room. "WHO DID THIS!?" You point directly at the shredded remains of Memaw's love pillows. Stella, of course, can't even stand to look at what she's done. She looks up at you with a whimper.

"Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!" Is the first thing that pops into your mind. But is guilt really what your dog is feeling? Did she purposely go behind your back? Even more, is she now actually feeling ashamed of what she's done?

A Look Into Dog Behavior

A 2009 study done by Dr. Alexandra Horowitz, head of "The Dog Cognition Lab" at Columbia University and author of "Inside A Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know" suggests that humans tend to understand animal emotions as if they were like our own, when that's not always the case.

In her book, Dr. Alexandra gives the example of our dogs greeting us after a long day away from home. We may tend to think that with their licks they're showing us affection or that they missed us. But a quick look into the behavior of dogs distant relatives, wolves, reveals that it may have just been a new food smell on you that they wanted to taste!

It is important to remember that most things that peek a dogs interest are within 2 feet of the ground and usually has a lot to do with smell.

Guilty Or Not Guilty

Now, it may well be the case that your old trusted, dogfriend sneakily waited until you were gone to take a sniff and to gnaw on those new shiny Memaw pillows. But your dog is not showing guilt when you called her into the kitchen. What she's expressing is fear. Dr. Alexandra argues that dogs are very capable of duping their owners to get what they want. Explaining that they've grown to read human tendencies and take advantage of them, but they do not reflect on their actions.

Those whimpers, those eyes and tucked tail are all signs of your dog being scared and a just little clueless.

Interested in diving in deeper into the mind of a dog? Dive into any one of Dr. Alexandra's books at:

-The Dog Walker Blog

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