Do Dogs Feel Guilt? [VIDEO]
If you have a dog, you've undoubtedly witnessed the unmistakeable look of guilt on their face after they've done something shameful. But are they really feeling guilty or are they simply keeping their head down and averting their gaze because they know you're angry and want to avoid a scolding?
A study profiled by Scientifc American asserts that the display of the associated behaviors of guilt [head lowered, averted gaze] are not, themselves, evidence of dogs' capacity to emotionally experience guilt. Instead, the report theorizes that a dogs guilty behavior instead follows from scolding. This is a reasonable speculation, given that owners tend to scold their dogs less if their dogs “act guilty.” Right?
In wolves, guilt-related behaviors are believed to reinforce social bonds, as in primates, by reducing conflict and eliciting tolerance from other members of the social group. The same could be true of dogs, though their social groups would primarily include humans.
What do you think? Does your dog actually feel guilty or do they instead act guilty as a way to avoid punishment? Watch Denver below and you decide!