Have you ever caught your dog doing something naughty, noted the guilty look on his face, and assumed he'd learned his lesson? You might want to wait before letting the misbehaving pooch have free reign of the house.
Animal experts say that dogs don't feel shame, and that look of guilt you see on their faces is something a bit different.
Scientists Alexandra Horowitz and Julie Hecht performed individual studies to determine why dogs look guilty. VetStreet reported that dogs often looked guilty when they were being reprimanded by their owners, not after they'd done something wrong. The study suggested dogs were reacting to their owner's emotions rather than their own wrong-doing.
While "dog-shaming" (yes, it's a thing!) may be a popular way to pass the time on the internet, it's likely having no effect on your dog's behavior.
"Dogs will show appeasement-like behavior that some owners interpret as guilt. They will also react to the person's body language, so dogs are absolute geniuses at picking up what we think before even we know it," Veterinary Scientists Susan Hazel said, according to Science Alert. While good at interpreting human emotions, Hazel notes that there is no proof dogs are capable of feeling shame.
"There's been a number of studies done and it's pretty clear that dogs don't feel or display guilt," Hazel said.
While the guilty look may be cute and a little funny, Hazel recommends owners keep an eye on their dog for actual signs of distress. Repeated bad behavior (like tearing up toys or the couch) could be a sign that their pet is among the 20 percent of dogs that suffer from separation anxiety, according to Science Alert.