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Dog Shaming Doesn't Work Because They Feel No Shame, Say Experts

By    |   Friday, 28 February 2014 07:15 AM EST

Dog shaming doesn't work, according to animal behaviorists, because in reality dog's feel no shame.

According to behaviorists, the apparently shameful look a dog will make, generally consisting of a lowered head with ears back and eyes down, is not actually shame for what they did, but rather a reaction to their owner's tantrum, NBC News reported.

Aside from the traditional dog shaming, which usually involves a raised voice and wagging finger, in today's Internet-based world dog shaming has evolved into the act of publicizing a dog's misdeeds through photographing them with a sign that explains their offense and then sharing it online.

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The digital dog shaming has become a trendy new way for pet owners to express their disappointment with their four-legged companion's destructive behavior through humor, though it is more for the human than the dog considering the latter doesn't understand the written word. As a result a series of new websites have been created to cater to that very human urge to express one's outrage to the world at large, such as and

However, whether you're a traditional finger-waving dog-shamer or someone who enjoys putting signs around your dog's neck and then taking a picture of them with a sad look on their face, neither of these means of shaming one's dog is apparently effective.

In 2009, Alexandra Horowitz, an associate professor of psychology at Barnard College in New York City, studied the reactions of 14 dogs that were left alone in a room with a treat after being instructed by the owner not to eat it. Horowitz then analyzed the dog's reactions when they owner returned to the room to find the treat had been eaten in some cases and not eaten in other cases.

"I found that the 'look' appeared most often when owners scolded their dogs, regardless of whether the dog had disobeyed or did something for which they might or should feel guilty. It wasn't 'guilt' but a reaction to the owner that prompted the look," Horowitz told NBC News.

"I am not saying that dogs might not feel guilt, just that the 'guilty look' is not an indication of it," said Horowitz, adding that there is a difference between guilt and shame.

According to Dr. Bonnie Beaver, a professor at Texas A&M University's College of Veterinary Medicine and executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, there is no doubt that dogs learn from bad, but whether you decide to reward your dog's behavior with a punishment or treat, it is best to do it immediately afterwards.

"The farther it gets from that, the less connection is made with the behavior," Beaver told NBC News.

"Humans have a natural desire to know what an animal is thinking, and yet we are limited to reading body language and measuring physiological reactions," Beaver added, concluding that at the end of the day, "We will never truly know because we cannot ask them."

Despite the scientific findings, dog shaming will likely not be going anywhere any time soon, considering that in recent years it has only grown in popularity online, as reflected by the shared images and video below.

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Dog shaming doesn't work, according to animal behaviorists because in reality dog's feel no shame.
Friday, 28 February 2014 07:15 AM
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