The Guilty Look

Have you seen this video?

Take a look at what that sweet lab is doing – squinting, wagging her tail, looking away… All of these behaviors are appeasement behaviors, things dogs do in order to avoid making us mad. It has nothing to do with knowing that they did something they weren’t supposed to do two hours ago. It has everything to do with reacting to their human’s behavior at the present. This dog knows that something is wrong and she’s trying very hard in order to change where she sees the future going.

When we first got our dog she had a couple accidents in the house while we were gone. We were careful not to punish her and simply cleaned it up. After the second accident whenever we came home the first thing we would do is check the house to see if she had made a mess. Every time we came home expecting to have to clean up she would act in a similar way to this dog, she would greet us low to the ground, wagging her tail and sometimes showing us her belly regardless of her having an accident or not. The next time you see your dog give you the ‘guilty look’ think twice about what signals you are sending your dog.

Have you had a similar experience?

For more information on the ‘guilty look’ click on the link below to see what science has to say about it:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090611065839.htm
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0376635709001004
Here is an exerpt from this article:

The results revealed no difference in behaviours associated with the guilty look. By contrast, more such behaviours were seen in trials when owners scolded their dogs. The effect of scolding was more pronounced when the dogs were obedient, not disobedient. 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.

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