Guilty As Charged
Some dogs hang their heads when their owners arrive home, look up from under their eyes, and try to make themselves look small. To the human eye, they look guilty and invite punishment.
When dogs look 'guilty', owners look for destruction or mess and, on finding it, will often punish their dog. Does this teach the dog not to do it again? The answer is no. Why not? To answer this, let’s take a look at this same situation from the dog’s perspective.
One day the owners go out and leave the dog alone. While they are gone, the dog is destructive or toilets in the house. When the owners return, the dog is so happy they have returned and runs to greet them but, inexplicably, instead of being friendly, the owners start to scold and smack. The next day they go out and the same thing happens. After a few days, the dog learns that when owners come back, they are likely to punish. To avoid the punishment when they return, the dog tries to appease them, as is natural for a dog in a pack, by hanging its head, making itself small and showing that it is no threat to them. They may even let out a little urine so the owners can smell that they are not a worthy opponent.
Sadly, the owner doesn’t understand the signals because, to human eyes, this looks like guilt. Humans think, on seeing this, that the dog ‘must know what he has done’ so the dog is punished anyway. The dog can remember what he did when the owners are not there but they have no way to link these actions with the punishment the owner is now giving, even if they are taken to where they did the action to be punished.
So when you see your dog ‘looking guilty’, remember that they have no understanding of why you are punishing them, even if you take them to the 'scene of the crime' and are, instead, trying to show appeasement to try to calm you down and stop the punishment. Go to 'Why Punishment Won't Work'
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