Do Misbehaved Dogs Feel Guilty?
Turns out dogs do experience basic emotions like fear, anger, and pleasure. What’s harder to pinpoint is whether canines feel secondary, or more complex, emotions such as guilt. Alexandra Horowitz, psychology professor at Barnard College, created an experiment to find out.
For her guilt test, Horowitz had dog owners enter a room and forbid their dogs to eat a piece of food, and then owners left. If the dog had consumed the treat upon their return, the owner would scold them. If they left the treat alone, the owner would greet them. "I didn’t see more guilty look when the dog was guilty. What I saw was more guilty look when the owner started getting angry.” Her conclusion: the dog didn’t know they violated the rules of the house but they did understand their owner was angry. “[The guilty look] is an expression of appeasement. ‘I’m concerned you look angry and I want to put on this really cute look.’”