This guilty look that dogs have when they have made a mistake makes us believe that they regret their act. According to scientists, this posture is animated by something other than a feeling of guilt.
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Do our dogs feel remorse after disobeying or misbehaving? Nothing is less certain, according to science. Although it has been shown that our four-legged friends can experience primary emotions such as joy and fear, there is currently no scientific proof that they have secondary emotions, much more complex. These include pride, jealousy, but also guilt.
The guilt, precisely, the dogs give the impression to have them in different situations, as when one returns home and one discovers a broken or chewed object, the dog standing next to it while looking downcast. The remorse implies that the dog understands that he has done something wrong. Is this really the case?
A study by Alexandra Horowitz, published in 2009 in the scientific journal Behavioral Processes, attempted to answer this question. It consisted of analyzing the behaviors of dogs to which the owners asked not to eat a delicacy placed before them in a room. It has been established that the reaction of canids has not changed, whether or not they have consumed the coveted food. On the other hand, the researchers found that their attitude changed according to that of their masters. If they scolded them, they would adopt that broken posture that is often misinterpreted as an expression of their guilt.
Posture that would also be inherited from the ancestor of the dog, the wolf, according to animal behaviorist Nathan H. Lents, who has signed an article on the subject in Psychology Today. He explains that within packs of wolves, members were punished by being ignored, marginalized. They then tried to be accepted again in the group by opting for a submission approach, quite similar to the “guilty” look that the offending dogs take.