Sometimes you really can blame it on the dog, because the dog tells you right away that it is guilty of something. A tucked tail, droopy ears and reluctance to make eye contact are telltale signs that something is amiss.
Etienne Harris noticed the signs in Missy, one of his female pit bull terriers, after he came home one day to discover that a pair of his sweatpants had been chewed up. In a video originally uploaded in September 2015, Harris recorded himself greeting both dogs, and Missy is definitely behaving shyly.
Missy eventually overcomes her reluctance and approaches Harris. After he pets her warmly and asks her about her day, he changes his tone of voice and asks, "Who tore my pants up, though?"
Both dogs immediately turn away and head out the door, Missy looking guiltily over her shoulder as she departs.
"Oh, y'all don't want to talk about that?" Harris asks.
Twice more, Harris calls the dogs over to him in an encouraging tone; twice they turn tail when he switches to a sterner voice and asks who tore up his pants.
Are the dogs feeling guilty?
The answer is unclear. The tucked tail and drooped ears are more likely signs of submission, communicating that the dog is yielding to a higher-ranking member of its pack.
"[The dog's] body language ... is simply a submissive response to the body language the higher ranking person is using," says Bonnie Beaver, board-certified veterinary behaviorist and professor of veterinary medicine at Texas A&M University. In a 2015 email interview with Huffington Post, Beaver said, "Since animals 'live in the moment' and do what seems appropriate to them at the time, it is doubtful they know the feeling of guilt as we do."
What do you think: Can dogs feel actual guilt, or are they simply displaying submission? Is there a difference? SHARE this article, and then tell us your opinion in the comments below!