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Does Your Dog Give You That Guilty Look?

As a dog owner, you have no doubt seen your pet give you a certain look that appears as though he or she is guilty about something. Most often, you will receive that look from your pooch and believe that he or she knows they have misbehaved, even when you have sought dog training and even if you have only just arrived home and the wrongdoing was performed hours earlier. However, is this actually the case? Many believe that a dog will have such a look on its face because they can read their owners and know when you are in a less than sunny mood. It is worth exploring the details.

When a dog gives you what is perceived to be the “guilty” look, he or she can appear as though cowering and avoid making eye contact with you. Such a look can come as a result of eating something the dog wasn’t supposed to or allowed to eat and from breaking some other rule. A study done by psychologist and animal behaviorist Alexandra Horowitz determines that dogs that are obedient can pick up on their owners’ emotional state and can essentially mimic it. This ability is referred to by psychologists as the “Clever Hans Effect,” which was named after a horse that could read people so well, he could tap the correct mathematical problems with his hoof. In general, the “guilty” dog look is thought of as an appeasing behavior as the dog wants to reconcile with its owner. Dog training can possibly rectify your pet having the look when he or she is truly innocent.

It is believed, however, that the guilty look from a dog signifies that in reality, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Dogs can indeed feel guilt and express that emotion, but at the same time, they can reflect their owners’ own emotions and body language. A dog can even express such a look even if it is not guilty if the owner assumes that he or she is.