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Your Dog Doesn’t Actually Feel Guilty, Dog Cognition Expert Says

As much as we love dogs, our four-legged friends can be quite a handful sometimes. From chewing pillows to breaking into the treats, pups can get pretty creative when they’re up to no good — which is why it’s not too shocking that many dog owners get a kick out of coming up with similarly creative punishments, including “dog-shaming” their pets on the internet.

If you have lots of friends who are dog lovers, you might have seen a few of these adorable dog-shaming pics, which often show whatever mischief their pups got into that day — with their guilty-looking doggo next to said mischief. While these infamous pics can be cute — and clearly satisfying for the dog owners — dog cognition expert Alexandra Horowitz says these dogs actually aren’t feeling guilty.

As The Atlantic reports, Horowitz did a study back in 2009 where she had dog owners forbid their pets from eating a certain treat before leaving the room. When the owners returned, she’d reveal that their pets did eat the treat — even though some of them didn’t. If the owners scolded their pups, the canines would provide their so-called “guilty looks” — even if they didn’t actually eat the treat. In fact, the dogs who didn’t eat the treat actually looked more guilty than the ones that did — but only if their owners got upset at them.

“These results indicate that a better description of the so-called guilty look is that it is a response to owner cues, rather than that it shows an appreciation of a misdeed,” she wrote in the study.

So why do our precious pets break out the infamous puppy dog eyes even if they didn’t do anything bad? As Horowitz later explained in The Washington Post: “The ‘guilty look’ would be better called the ‘submissive look’, as in, ‘Don’t punish me for whatever it is you think I did.’”

In order to prevent this kind of mischief from happening in the future, Horowitz suggested that owners “take away the temptation” for dogs to misbehave. Depending on what your “bad dog” did, this might mean hiding treats, putting away certain clothes or shoes, or closing cabinets and drawers.

Let’s help our dogs be the good boys and girls we know they can be!

h/t The Atlantic

Next, learn why dogs are so good for your health in the video below:

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