Do dogs really feel guilt or shame?

Poop Bubblestissuespowerbars flour dad's shoeRachael takes a look into the pet shaming trend

Being a pet owner all but ensures that you’ll be granted memories that will bring you great joy, even if that joy comes secondary to initial anger and/or frustration.

Enter the dog shaming phenomena. I’ve yet to join the Internet trend of documenting my sweet Pippa’s poor decision making skills, but fur baby moms and dads across the globe are popularizing the trend on websites like dogshaming.com to bring attention to their little troublemakers.

On various websites and through the use of social media outlets, pet owners are regularly posting pictures outing their beloved pets and documenting angry moments into laugh-worthy photos for all the world to enjoy. Below are some of my favorites, courtesy of dogshaming.com.

Now, I couldn’t help but notice that some of the pups in these photographs look genuinely guilty. When Pippa makes bad decisions, I’d like to think that her behavior when “caught” is equivalent to guilt, which makes me pose the question: Do dogs feel guilty?

In an article by Jason Goldman, “Do Dogs feel Guilty”, he reveals that 74% of dog owners believe that their dog experiences guilt. Unfortunately, evidence that supports this is rare, as it’s difficult to measure this secondary emotion in animals. Many reactions stem from the owners scolding and the “guilty” look may be a learned response, as it tends to reduce the duration of the scolding. Animal cognition experts have conducted a few studies, but nothing conclusive yet is on the horizon for whether or not your sweet pup truly feels guilty for chewing up your favorite shoes, or eating the cat’s poop. Guilt is a complex emotion – I’d like to think that their “guilty” look at least means they are ashamed of what they’ve done, but in reality, our sweet animals are just that, animals. Somewhere this century, perhaps more studies done in the realm of real-world pet/owner interactions, more evidence will be revealed that indicates our dogs do feel guilt, but until then… let’s settle for the notion that they have a guilty conscience, and take more pictures.

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