Dog shaming, or dogshaming photos, are a growing trend on the internet thanks to websites like dogshaming.com and shameyourpet.com. But is it possible that we’re just amusing ourselves without having any effect on our troubled canines?
The idea behind dog shaming is that owner are allowed to vent frustrations over chewed pillows, smelly messes on the rug, missing slippers, and meat hidden underneath the sofa pillows. For example, many dog shaming photos will include a sign with the canine that explains their supposed crime:
— Mark Pilgrim (@MarkPilgrimZA) February 27, 2014
Everyone know “the look” that dog is giving his owner. It’s the stereotypical lowered head and downcast eyes that can twist our hearts into knots. But animal behaviorists from Texas A&M University believe our little demon dog is not displaying any guilt at all.
Dr. Bonnie Beaver (which is a name almost as funny as the dog shaming photos) says the canine’s reaction is not a sign of guilt but instead is a physical reaction intended to get the owner to stop their tantrum (or to get that stupid sign off of their neck). The dogs are unlikely to remember what they did as being wrong, so she says, “Just get over it and remind yourself not to put temptation in the way next time.”
Alexandra Horowitz, an associate professor of psychology at Barnard College in New York City, agrees with this assessment. She ran a study using treats and she believes the physical posture isn’t always indicative of what the dogs are thinking:
“I found that the ‘look’ appeared most often when owners scolded their dogs, regardless of whether the dog had disobeyed or did something for which they might or should feel guilty. It wasn’t ‘guilt’ but a reaction to the owner that prompted the look. I am not saying that dogs might not feel guilt, just that the ‘guilty look’ is not an indication of it.”
Interestingly enough, Pascale Lemire, the creator of the dog shaming website, also thinks dogs are not capable of guilty emotions:
“I don’t think dogs actually feel shame. I think they know how to placate us with this sad puppy-dog look that makes us think they’re ashamed of what they’ve done. My guess is that their thinking is: ‘Oh man, my owner is super mad about something, but I don’t know what, but he seems to calm down when I give him the sad face, so let’s try that again.'”
What do you think about the dog shaming photos trend? Do you think your favorite canine is capable of feeling advanced emotions?