The Most Harmful Misconception In Dog Body Language… Guilt!!
In my opinion one the the biggest miscommunications between dogs and humans, and potentially the most harmful too, is the impression we can recognise “that guilty look” in our dogs when we "catch them” after having done something they shouldn’t have done.
The problem we have here is that the way dogs look when they are anxious or stressed, is similar to the way children (and some adults) look when they are guilty. What the dog is demonstrating in this instance is his reaction to the usually confrontational reaction from the human.
So, when the owner is under the impression their dog looks guilty, they also assume the dog understands he's done wrong and therefore makes their feeling even clearer. It’s a vicious circle.
To demonstrate this, I’ve created this short video. Hope you find it useful.
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Horowitz A. Disambiguating the “guilt look’ : Salientprompts to a familiar dog behaviour. Behavioural Processes 2009; 81:447-452
Hecht J, Miklosi A, Gasci M. Behavioural assessment and owner perceptions of behaviours associated with guilt in dogs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 2012; 139:134-142
Ostojic L, Tkalcic M, Clayton N, Are owners’ reports of their dogs’ “guilty look” influenced by the dogs’ actions and evidence of the misdeed? Behavioural Process 2015; 111:97-100