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Scold Them All You Want, Dogs Feel No Shame Says Behaviorist

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Don't trust the look on these puppy's faces... they don't feel guilty at all. (credit: CBSDFW.COM)

Don’t trust the look on these puppy’s faces… they don’t feel guilty at all. (credit: CBSDFW.COM)

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DALLAS, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – If you’ve ever come home from a long day only to find out your dog has destroyed something, you are not alone. But does scolding the dog work?

Despite the ‘guilty look’, the droopy ears and lowered head, animal behavior experts now say dogs are not really capable of feeling shame, even though they may look like they do.

“What they are doing is reading human body language,” says Dr. Bonnie Beaver of Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine. “Lowering of the head is a submissive posture, not a shameful one and we (humans) put the interpretation into it. “

So why the look of guilt? It’s because of body language.

“We are very verbal in communicating. Dogs don’t have that skill so they have learned to read each other in different ways – and they do that through body language.” said Dr. Beaver. So naturally standing over the dog, talking sternly to them will evoke a response that will look to some like ‘guilt’.

And it’s obvious why we think that – with the popularity of websites like DogShaming.com where many pet owners are taking out their frustrations on the canines by taking pictures of the damage, along with a funny sign draped over the culprit, and posting them online.

There is no question that in some of the pictures, they look guilty of eating, chewing, defecating-on or damaging something they shouldn’t have.

As a responsible owner, “Get over it and remind yourself not to put temptation in the way next time,” said Dr. Beaver.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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