Pooches don’t feel guilt at all, say scientists

June 12th, 2009 - 1:39 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, June 12 (ANI): Dog owners often guess if their pet has done something wrong by a guilty look on pooches’ face. Now, a new study from Barnard College in New York has uncovered what really prompts the canine’s ‘guilty look’.

Lead researcher Alexandra Horowitz, Assistant Professor from Barnard College in New York revealed that the human tendency to attribute a “guilty look” to a dog was not due to whether the dog was indeed guilty.

But people see ‘guilt’ in a dog’s body language when they believe the dog has done something it shouldn’t have - even if the dog has done nothing wrong.

During the study, the researchers asked the owners leave the room after ordering their dogs not to eat a tasty treat.

While the owner was away, Horowitz gave some of the dogs this forbidden treat before asking the owners back into the room.

In some trials the owners were told that their dog had eaten the forbidden treat; in others, they were told their dog had behaved properly and left the treat alone.

However, whatever the owners were told often did not correlate with reality.

Whether the dogs’ behaviour included elements of the “guilty look” had little to do with whether the dogs had actually eaten the forbidden treat or not.

Dogs looked most “guilty” if they were warned by the owners for eating the treat.

The dogs that had actually been obedient and had not eaten the treat, but were scolded by their (misinformed) owners, looked more “guilty”.

Thus the researchers suggest that the dog’s guilty look is a response to the owner’s behaviour, and not necessarily indicative of its own misdeeds. (ANI)

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