Has Your Dog No Shame?

According to a study, dogs are incapable of feeling guilt.

A group of researchers says that dogs exhibit a “guilty look” in response to their owners’ behavior, rather than actually feeling remorseful for their bad behavior. Hmm, dunno if I’m buying this one. Why, then, do I instantly say to myself, Oh God, this is gonna be good, when I walk through the door to find my springer with his head hung low and his tail between his legs? Then I invariably discover he’s eaten my girlfriend’s goldfish. And it’s harder to walk into a pet store and find a matching goldfish than you’d think.

The study’s author says the “guilty dog” myth is a result of anthropomorphismthe tendency of humans to attribute human emotions to animals. That makes some sense to me; too many dog lovers run into problems because they treat their animals like people and fail to establish themselves as pack leaders.

The report will be published in the July issue of Behavioural Processes, the editor of which has called the study “a remarkably powerful demonstration of the need for careful experimental designs if we are to understand the human-dog relationship and not just reify our natural prejudices about animal behavior."

So, remember, the next time your Chessie steals your sandwich, leaps from the blind to chase a seagull and returns with most of your decoy spread in tow, he may appear to feel badbut he actually couldn’t care less.

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