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Saw this posted on another forum and thought it was quite interesting...

Link to study: Disambiguating the “guilty look”: Salient prompts to a familiar dog behaviour

And...

What Really Prompts The Dog's 'Guilty Look'


Horowitz was able to show that the human tendency to attribute a “guilty look” to a dog was not due to whether the dog was indeed guilty. Instead, people see ‘guilt’ in a dog’s body language when they believe the dog has done something it shouldn’t have – even if the dog is in fact completely innocent of any offense.
 

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Article Quote: Of interest is whether attributions of understanding and emotions to dogs are sound, or are unwarranted applications of human psychological terms to non-humans


I believe dogs have and express emotions. I also question wether the author ever had a a dog of thier own.
 

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Article Quote: Of interest is whether attributions of understanding and emotions to dogs are sound, or are unwarranted applications of human psychological terms to non-humans


I believe dogs have and express emotions. I also question wether the author ever had a a dog of thier own.
I believe that dogs have emotions and express them, too; however, I don't believe that they have a moral/values system, which is needed to feel or express guilt. Dogs have an "in it for me" system. They do things that are in their own best interest without first weighing how it affects others around them, neither do they reflect on how their previous actions may have affected others when they are finished with whatever they have done.

I believe that dogs express love and fear and joy and sadness. No one who has had a dog can deny those emotions (although "love" might simply be the affiliation expressed between pack mates--who cares about the distinction?); however, without a value system the idea that dogs feel guilt is nothing more than humans anthropomorphizing their pets. I think that dogs have "families" of a sort, which might lead to expressions of filial emotions, but values-based emotions are simply beyond them.
 
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I believe that dogs have emotions and express them, too; however, I don't believe that they have a moral/values system, which is needed to feel or express guilt. Dogs have an "in it for me" system. They do things that are in their own best interest without first weighing how it affects others around them, neither do they reflect on how their previous actions may have affected others when they are finished with whatever they have done.

I believe that dogs express love and fear and joy and sadness. No one who has had a dog can deny those emotions (although "love" might simply be the affiliation expressed between pack mates--who cares about the distinction?); however, without a value system the idea that dogs feel guilt is nothing more than humans anthropomorphizing their pets. I think that dogs have "families" of a sort, which might lead to expressions of filial emotions, but values-based emotions are simply beyond them.
THIS! Well said. :)
 

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My opinion: Of course they don't feel "guilty". But that's different than knowing that their actions displease the person.

They don't think "I shouldn't be doing this, because it's wrong", but they do think "my person gets upset when I do this, so I won't do it in front of them." Then when the person discovers the fruits of their labor, they know what they did that makes the person angry or upset.

For example, they don't dig a hole while the person is standing there. Not because they think it's morally wrong, but because they don't want to bring on the wrath of the person. When the person discovers the hole, the dog DOES know that he did it and that the person doesn't like it.

That's where the so-called "guilty" look comes in. It's not guilt, it's a certain level of fear.
 

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Dogs have an "in it for me" system. They do things that are in their own best interest without first weighing how it affects others around them, neither do they reflect on how their previous actions may have affected others when they are finished with whatever they have done.
this can also be said of a young child....they have no idea of "values", these are learned things....yes, a child puts "value" on a toy (it's/they're my toy(s), you can't have it/them) and dogs do the same thing (it's my bone, stay away from it) but they have no concept at a young age as to why it is wrong to colour on the wall, rip a book page, etc. ....these are things that are taught to them as they grow, and i still maintain that a dog does the same thing....the only difference being is that a child (hopefully) learns why things are of value to another and a dog will just learn that it is and not care as to the why....all they care is that it displeases their people and so they learn right from wrong....
 

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I'm not sure I agree... I believe a dogs actions are just more primal. Humans have been conditioned but our instincts are the same. Guilt is a conditioned emotion... not instinctual. Place us in a "no one is watching situation" and wait for a guilty look :rolleyes:

Do you believe a dog can be sympathetic?

Please click my eggie and my hatchies
 

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place a child...h#!!, even a lot of adults....into a situation where they think "no one is watching and they can get away w/ it" and see what happens....ever hear the dialogue between a couple people along the lines of "I'm sorry!" "Sorry about what...that you did it or that you got caught?" kinda falls in the same category as a dogs reaction when "mom/dad" come home and find that they had chewed the couch, or pee'd on the floor or.......
 

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I'm not sure I agree... I believe a dogs actions are just more primal. Humans have been conditioned but our instincts are the same. Guilt is a conditioned emotion... not instinctual. Place us in a "no one is watching situation" and wait for a guilty look :rolleyes:

Do you believe a dog can be sympathetic?
I'm not sure. Kaki always seems to know when I'm upset. She'll be much more cuddly and clingy. I don't know how that could be a conditioned response...I just don't know.
 

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Once again, the dogs see things from a different perspective than people do. Time is a human construct: without the human mind and the human invention of the time piece, there is no time. Dog's don't understand that when they chew the couch at 10 a.m., when they are alone, that at 6:00 their owners will get upset when they return home to find the couch in a shambles. Without that ability to tell the passage of time, actions and their consequences aren't necessarily paired UNLESS they happen within seconds of each other. If you're speaking strictly from the point of view of behaviorism, that is why the timing of reward and punishment is so important. If you want your dog to sit on command and he begins the action, you want to be sure that his bottom is on the way down and impacting with the floor when you say "yes!" or click your clicker instead of his bottom being on the way up again. To a dog to know what "sit" means, it needs to have the immediate proximity of stimulus, action, and consequence before it can understand the sequence.

As an example, when I was training my first dog for obedience--a Dalmatian--to heel, it was in the old days of using the slip collar as a correction, in conjunction with a verbal command. If she sat automatically when I stopped walking, I praised her. When she did not sit automatically, I snapped the lead and said, "NO, Gypsy, SIT." At the same time I pushed her bottom down. This process went on for at least a week before she "clicked" on it and we moved on. Fast forward a few days. We are in the kitchen and she is cutting up as I try to feed her. I said, "NO, Gypsy!" and she sat. To her, the proximity of those words led to the action "sit," which would then garner her quiet praise. That is, "sit" didn't mean sit and "no" didn't mean "no;" they were one in the same and led to her performing what she thought was the correct behavior.

So, when you leave the house and Rover sees you go, he doesn't think, "I now have ten hours in which I can perform mischief, so I'm going to take a nap before I eat the couch, after which I'll nap again in a soft pile of stuffing." No, he goes about his doggybusiness until something motivates him to chew the life out of your couch--maybe something that smells good got spilled on it or a microscopic imperfection invites him to enlarge it--who knows? Then once he feels satisfied that the couch has been improved sufficiently, he'll go to sleep and forget all about what motivated him, what he did, and so on. When you finally walk in the door, he runs to greet you because that stuffing that is strewn around the living room means nothing to him. It is not until you respond in anger that he understands that something is wrong, although he doesn't understand. He responds submissively: one front paw is probably raised, his ears and flews are drawn back in the stress position, he lists to one side as he prepares to fall and expose his belly. Stay angry and when he falls over he will urinate for you. To us, that looks like guilt; to him, it is self-preservation.

So what does it mean when your dog comes into the room and automatically starts exhibiting those behaviors? Isn't that guilt? No, that just means that he's heard you say, "what the [fillintheblank]?" and can smell that you are angry, even from the other room. He doesn't know why you are angry and in no case does he associate it with the couch, but he knows that he must make you happy because you are the pack leader.

So no, dog's don't feel guilt. Do they feel sympathy? I don't know. I know that they can be away when a member of their pack is not feeling well and they will snuggle, but I don't know if that's sympathy or another means of helping with pack survival. In either case, it works out well for the pack member, so I don't know if the distinction is relevant. I understand the need to put things in human terms, so that we feel that we understand them, but sometimes anthropomorphizing our dogs does them more harm than good.
 

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To simplify, I would copy a certain TV personality and say 'Dogs live in the moment'. What happened an hour ago may as well have been 2 months ago.

I'm not sure why they spent the effort doing this study given the conclusion is consistent with what practically every "expert" already says.
 

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Just to be clear, I don't think either of those articles debunks the idea that dogs can feel guilty -- they just demonstrate that the allegedly "guilty" look is a response to human cues (ie scolding) rather than a naturally occurring behavior subsequent to the naughtiness.

So do you (anyone) think that they can feel guilty, but not, as in the title of this thread, know specifically what they did wrong? Can they feel guilt simply as a response to being admonished? Or can guilt not exist without knowledge of the offense?
 

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So do you (anyone) think that they can feel guilty, but not, as in the title of this thread, know specifically what they did wrong?
I don't - I believe the dog is just reacting to our own behavior, voice, etc. I think when a dog acts 'guilty' they are simply trying to appease us in order to restore the 'calm' of the pack or household. For example, think of the way dogs act with each other. When one reacts to the other in an angry or assertive manner the other typically exhibits the same behaviors we associate with guilt (sometimes they don't and it turns into a fight - but that's a whole different thing). They don't do this because they feel bad over the situation/whatever set the other dog off or because they know they did something wrong - they do it in order to neutralize the 'punishment' from the other dog, to make him stop. I believe it works the same for us. We just call it guilt because we're humans and we often associate our own emotions with that of our pets and yes, it does look an awful lot like the dog feels bad or guilty over the situation. But I think it's more of an instinctual reaction rather then an emotional one...if that makes any sense.
 

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According to the dictionary (Hey, give me a break...I'm an English teacher) "guilt" is defined two ways:

1) the state of having committed an offense
2) remorse caused by feeling responsible for some offense

Clearly dogs are guilty of many things, according to definition #1. It's definition #2 we're discussing though, right?

I have to vote that no, dogs don't feel guilt in the sense of definition #2. This is purely anecdotal, but most of the time Alvin doesn't even seem to remember what happened to him just hours earlier in the day. I can't see how he could possibly take responsibility for or feel remorse about anything he'd previously done!
 

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Good point! I love English teachers. :)

Meaning #1 is true. Dogs ARE guilty of things. The question is, do they know they are? I'd have to say yes. It's not about them "feeling" guilty or bad about it, it's about them knowing they have committed an offense. That's when people say, "He knows what he did was wrong".
 

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I'm not sure why they spent the effort doing this study given the conclusion is consistent with what practically every "expert" already says.
They did this study to try and change the minds of all the MANY people out there who use the "guilty look" as a justification that the dog knows it's done something wrong (ie chew the couch) even if it happened three hours ago. This to them, often justifies punishing the dog...

I truly think the reaction by the dog is based totally on the owner's behaviour/energy/body language upon entering the room, regardless of the "reason" they may be angry. They could be angry at the guy who stole their parking spot..if they enter the house still tense and irritated at the jerk, their dog will respond with appeasement behaviours. It has nothing to do with whether the dog actually did anything or not.
 

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I truly think the reaction by the dog is based totally on the owner's behaviour/energy/body language upon entering the room, regardless of the "reason" they may be angry. They could be angry at the guy who stole their parking spot..if they enter the house still tense and irritated at the jerk, their dog will respond with appeasement behaviours. It has nothing to do with whether the dog actually did anything or not.
That's basically what I was trying to say, but you did a better job of it. I totally agree.

ETA: Another indication of this may be the fact that a dog will react the same even if he HASN'T done anything wrong, but you're still acting upset. Like if I walked over to Dakota right now an behaved like she'd just chewed the entire couch to pieces, I'd get the same 'guilty' behaviors that she's go though has she actually done the chewing. Likewise, if the couch were chewed and I totally ignored it, Dakota wouldn't do anything but act as her normal self.
 
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When Kechara has done something wrong like ate food off the counter and we come home. she doesn't come to greet us and when we see her she crouches really low to the ground and trys to hide. That is a major physical change in her body language that I know I am not imagining.
 

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OK, I just yelled at my dog who has been doing nothing except sleeping. Sure enough, after I yelled he looked guilty. Can I write this up and get some grant money?
 
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