Ask any dog owner and they will tell you at least a dozen reasons why these animals are the finest creatures on Earth. However, sometimes even the best have an off day. And when they do, they end up on the subreddit r/DogShaming!
It's a place where people share amusing pictures of their naughty pups after they have eaten all the donuts, covered the patio in pee, or committed some other unforgivable crime.
Continue scrolling to meet the suspects and don't miss the conversation I had about guilt in dogs with Kate Litaker, Dogtown Lifesaving and Care Supervisor for Best Friends Animal Society.
In some of these pics, it appears that the pups are repenting for their "sins." However, even though dogs can learn what their owners consider appropriate and inappropriate behavior, we still aren't sure if they feel guilt.
"I personally don't think that dogs feel guilt, their reaction is just a response to environmental stimuli and human reactions," Kate Litaker, the staffer at Best Friends, told Bored Panda.
Scientists don't have a concrete answer as well. In a 2009 study, researchers observed dogs and their owners under several sets of circumstances and concluded that dogs tended to display "guilty" body language more frequently when their owners scolded them than when the owners remained neutral – regardless of whether the dogs had actually done anything wrong.
Dog cognition scientist and author Dr. Alexandra Horowitz, who was in charge of the research, said that "a better description of the so-called guilty look is that it is a response to owner cues, rather than that it shows an appreciation of a misdeed."
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What about you? What would you do if you came back home after a long day and your four-legged buddy greeted you with shreds of your favorite jacket?
Litaker said an appropriate reaction would be to act excited to see your dog, clean up the mess, and work on preventing it from happening in the future. For example, maybe put all of your clothes inside the wardrobe and toss a nice chew toy on the floor instead.
"One of my office dogs did destroy my window blinds and house plants trying to escape the room because she was left alone in the office," Litaker recalled. "She really preferred the company of another dog or humans, so I didn't leave her alone in the room anymore."
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According to the American Kennel Club, when we consider a dog looking guilty, we usually mean it displays some or all of the following behaviors or signs:
- Tucked tail;
- Visible whites of the eyes;
- Cowering, hunched posture;
- Flattened ears;
- Avoiding eye contact.
These expressions are signs of fear and stress in dogs. But determining if they truly feel bad about breaking our rules is tricky. Guilt is a complex concept.
It requires an understanding of cause and effect in relation to time, which is difficult to prove. Plus, dogs can't use words to describe how they feel either, so we are really running out of options here!
There can be a number of reasons why dogs act out. "They can become destructive or have an accident because they are bored, because it's fun, or because they didn't like being alone," Kate Litaker added. "Providing interactive toys and food puzzles when you're not home, and plenty of playtime and exercise when you are home can help prevent these types of behaviors."
For more information on pets and their behavior, visit Best Friends.