Dogs Feel Guilt: Proven or Not?

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By Daniel Joseph Cruz | April 8, 2014 12:36 PM EST

Dogs' feelings of guilt and shame have been debated over for a long time. Now we're close to knowing the truth.

Dog lovers believe their beloved pets understand and express these feelings similar to what humans do. They base it on their own experiences and mostly as a fact. Can we really claim it as true?

Reuters/Phil Noble
Jenson, a Boxer dog rests in his stall on the first day of the Crufts dog show in Birmingham, central England, March 11, 2010.

In this report on livescience.com, a recent study declares there are reasons to assume that dogs experience guilt and shame. Marc Beckoff, Emeritus professor at University of Colorado, Boulder, one of the world's pioneering cognitive ethologists, said, "because it's been claimed that other mammals with whom dogs share the same neural bases for emotions do experience guilt, pride, and shame and other complex emotions... there's no reason why dogs cannot..."

With this statement, It's a given dogs normally behave and express these feelings similarly with other mammals.

Alexandra Horrowitz, renowned dog researcher for Barnard College, explained in her research in 2009, dogs respond and express more the guilty-look in response to their owners's cues and actions right up front. Although this instance in the study is discredited by some, it is still notable that dogs do express the "guilt" feeling and that's enough to hold on to at the moment.

More scientific data are needed to back-up if the study were accurate. Generally accepted but it's important not to discredit this particular research. It's not that previous and ongoing studies achieved nothing, but left us with more questions.

One good thing to know was that the discovery about dogs and their emotions have already broken ground for everyone to dig deeper. Dog lovers are not left to themselves to guess and conclude on their pets' feelings without scientific basis.

Everyone can now believe that dogs feel guilt, shame and almost every other emotion possible, while keeping an open mind of more discoveries that are worthy of surprise and delight.

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(Photo: Reuters/Phil Noble / )
Jenson, a Boxer dog rests in his stall on the first day of the Crufts dog show in Birmingham, central England, March 11, 2010.
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