Have you ever observed your dog act and look guilty after it has done something wrong?
Whether they have pooped on your carpet floor, massacred your favorite pillow, or bite you when being playful.
They put on this sad cry babyface, giving you nostalgic memories of Puss in Boots every time he begs for Shrek’s mercy.
Dogs can act like that sometimes.
But is it a ploy they execute to deceive us, or is it feelings of guilt?
This time we will try to answer one of the most fabled questions out there.
Do dogs feel guilty after they bite?
Do Dogs Feel Guilty?
Before we tackle the above question, we first must understand the brains of our dogs.
Presumably, you have observed your dog exude feelings of happiness and fear under your care.
These are referred to as primary emotions and are present across different organisms.
On the other hand, secondary emotions are a tad bit complicated.
For these emotions to be apparent in a species, they first must have some more advanced level of civilization.
Unfortunately, these are not evident in non-human organisms.
Secondary emotions include:
What Does Science Say?
Animals do exhibit guilty behaviors. You can see this in wolf packs.
An alpha wolf can establish its dominance over any member of the pack that upsets it.
In turn, this wolf that angered the alpha will exhibit guilty behavior or actions because of what it did.
Rendering the wolf learned or trained to not do the same upsetting deed again, in fear of being dominated by the alpha.
It is like domestic dogs as well. Since there is a language barrier, their guilt reflects on their actions. Some of these actions are:
- Dogs put their heads down
- Fail to make eye contact
- Dogs turn around when you are near.
- Dogs hide from plain sight
However, while those actions are behaviors associated with guilt, they are not indicative of whether the dogs experience guilt to an emotional level.
Your dog might simply be reacting to your reaction
How Do I Know My Dog is Guilty?
We suggest that you become more observant when a dog bites you. And answer these questions:
- How do you react after getting bitten?
- How does your dog respond to your reaction?
Most likely, if you are the easily-startled-kind, then you will shout or scream at the dog when bitten.
Moreover, you may have also scolded the dogs after that.
You must understand that dogs are not humans.
Humans may realize what a loud modulation of the voice means.
Dogs may not.
Going back to the wolf example above, if your dog picks up on your loud reaction and your scolding as a show of dominance, then their response would be to exhibit a “guilty” behavior.
This way, it becomes a learned response from the dogs that biting is not something you like.
So, they might try to avoid doing it. Or when they accidentally do bite you, they would put on their guilty look because they are in for some scolding.
There is not much Science and research yet to exactly make a bold claim that dogs do feel guilty.
But with the current knowledge in animal behavioral science: dogs may respond with guilty behaviors but not feel emotionally guilty per se.
The best you can do is observe yourself and your dog whenever your pooch commits some mistake.
Observe how you react and what your reaction does to your dog.