No matter how long you have had dogs, you never quite stop feeling shocked at how much destruction they are capable of – and how easy it is to forgive them, no matter how costly the damage.
It’s those big, sad eyes that no human can resist. This guilty dog look is so universal, there’s an entire website dedicated to trouble-making dogs – DogShaming.com, where guilty-looking (and totally shameless) dogs pose by signs describing what their latest antics. Many dogs have multiple Dog Shaming appearances, hinting at the possibility that they feel no shame at all.
What Dogs Remember
Have you ever noticed that when you arrive home, your dog will act equally excited whether you were gone five minutes or five hours?
A dog has a short-term, episodic memory span of less than five minutes. This means that he’ll almost immediately forget about pooping on the carpet or chewing up a sofa cushion. So, if you scold him even fifteen minutes after the act, he’ll have no idea why you’re displeased with him.
A dog does, however, have a very efficient associative memory. He doesn’t remember the act of chewing up a sofa cushion, but he may have a negative association if, the last time there were bits of chewed cushion across the floor, you got angry.
Science Says Dogs Aren’t Likely to Feel Shame
Alexandra Horowitz, author of “Inside Of A Dog,” conducted an experiment to test whether dogs express feelings of guilt.
First, she instructed owners to tell their dogs not to eat a treat. Then, the dogs were left alone with the temptation. Some dogs ate the treat, others didn’t. Horowitz then told owners whether their dog ate the treat, and allowed the owners to re-unite with their dogs.
She wasn’t always honest – leading some owners to believe their dogs had eaten the treat when they hadn’t, and vice versa.
The dogs’ reactions to seeing their owners didn’t correlate with whether they ate the forbidden treat or not. Instead, they only showed that guilty look if their owner thought they had eaten the treat.
The Delicate Art of Appeasement
A dog’s lowered head, averted gaze and big, sad eyes may not be an expression of guilt at all – but an expression of appeasement.
Dogs make themselves appear smaller to avoid conflict, both with other dogs and with humans. When they feel threatened, their safest reaction is to make it obvious that they do not want to fight.
This is why, no matter how sorry your dog looks when they do something wrong, they will not have learned their lesson. Unless they are trained using positive reinforcement, or managed with a crate or baby gates, they will commit the same crime over and over again – and wonder why you’re not happy with them.
Pet Sitting for Less Trouble and More Happy Wags
When your dog is home alone, you can depend on Westminster pet sitting services from Ready Pet Go to keep them out of trouble. We take time to get to know and understand your dog’s behavior, and keep consistent with your positive training routines to encourage better behavior in the future. Give us a call at (240) 221-5335 or get in touch today for a Meet & Greet.