Science | Animals

Your Dog's "Guilty" Look Actually Means Something Very Different

If you've ever come home from work to find your house is a gigantic mess, you're probably very familiar with the "puppy dog eyes."

I've shared posts before about this manipulation technique that every dog seems to know from birth, so imagine how surprised I was to learn that dogs with a classic "guilty" look don't actually feel bad for what they've done.

Maybe you don't imagine your dog knows the difference between right and wrong, but everyone seems to think this piece of doggy body language means your pet is regretful. In fact, they're really afraid.

Dr. Alexandra Horowitz has spent time studying this expression, and says pet owners are just projecting their own feelings onto their dogs.

Instead of feeling sorry for knocking over your new lamp, Fido is really frightened by your angry voice and wagging finger.

But don't feel bad for mistaking their expression, even Horowitz is fooled sometimes.

"I look at a dog showing the guilty look and it feels guilty to me," she told IFL Science. "We're kind of wired to see it this way."

So how did researchers figure this out? It's actually pretty clever. They had dogs eat a treat after they were told not to.

If their owners scolded them, they acted guilty. Otherwise, they didn't. It was as simple as that.

And in case you need any more proof: even dogs who hadn't eaten the treat acted "guilty" when they were confronted.

Share this news with someone who has a dog!

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