Dogs can be guilty of an action, but dogs do not feel guilt.
Now your gut reaction is to explain a time when your dog showed a remorseful feeling. Many people tell me the dog “knows what they did” by looking guilty after you found they soiled the house, ripped open the trashcan, or did some other action that has happened before. Did the dog do it? Yes, they’re guilty. Does the dog feel guilt? Let’s delve in a little.
From the time puppies are born we have to teach them everything. We take them to classes and teach them a reliable “sit”, we guide them to a patch of grass outside when they show us they need to potty, we say “Good girl!” and give them a hearty rub down when they listen to us well.
Unfortunately, we also teach them to cower in fear when we don’t set them up for success. Dogs will rip up the couch if not taken for walks and given working toys. Dogs will raid the trash bin if bored or hungry. Dog will potty in the house if they can’t let themselves outside (Soiling issues are multifaceted. Speak with your humane dog trainer for specific help.).
When owners come home to see the destruction for the first time their puppy wasn’t scared, they were quite excited mom or dad came home! But then mom found the couch, the trash in the kitchen, the soft, creamy line left by the Roomba on the carpet… What did she do next? That explains why a dog now looks to have a feeling of remorse.
If a dog truly understood and was truly punished for the actions they did, they would not do it again. Yet owners are caught in an ineffective routine that doesn’t work.
So Why Does My Dog Act Remorseful?
The actions your dog showed are called Appeasement Gestures. They’re telling you they are uncomfortable, and they want you to stop what you’re doing. And it works! If you’re struggling with a behavior problem, break the cycle by hiring a local humane dog trainer. You’ll be glad you did.
(c) Caitlins Animal Training Services
IG @ CaitlinsAnimals