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Can you tell a guilty dog?

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Can you tell a guilty dog?
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EngelbertPosts: 290Joined: Thu Mar 28, 2013 3:03 am Gender: Male

Post Can you tell a guilty dog?





Was wondering what anybody makes of this. I wouldn't claim to know all the time whether my dog was guilty of a certain act, I bet there are plenty of occasions when I'd get it wrong, but I feel like there are some occasions when dog owners aren't just deluding themselves...

I came downstairs this morning to find a less than pleasant gift from my dog steaming in the kitchen. No it wasn't breakfast.

Cereal had to be postponed.


Now, I have two dogs that were waiting for me in the living room. One came to say hello, happy as usual. The other sat nervously by the sofa. Fidgeting, looking away when I called it, wagging its tail rather unusually, looking down at the ground, starting to come over - then seemingly rooting itself back down to the side of the sofa ... as far as seemed to me .... looking a little bit guilty.


hmmmm.
Tue Sep 17, 2013 11:08 am
InfernoContributorUser avatarPosts: 2298Joined: Thu Apr 30, 2009 7:36 pmLocation: Vienna, Austria Gender: Cake

Post Re: Can you tell a guilty dog?

I too often have the feeling that my sister's mutt looks guilty when it does something wrong... Ears laid flat, head between its paws... Yet apparently, it's our tendency to notice these things when we THINK they're guilty.

Livescience: Guilty dog myth

That being said, the above study has N=14, which is very low, and I can neither find the original research nor the supposed mountains of other research done on the topic.
I believe QI was right to report it as a myth (that's what current research indicates) but I also don't see a reason to accept the one study. I wouldn't know how to test for it but I believe this myth... may actually be true.
"Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth because they don't want their illusions destroyed." ― Friedrich Nietzsche

"I shall achieve my objectives through the power... of Science!" --LessWrong
Tue Sep 17, 2013 5:57 pm
EngelbertPosts: 290Joined: Thu Mar 28, 2013 3:03 am Gender: Male

Post Re: Can you tell a guilty dog?

Do you mean true, in that the myth is correct, or true that actually dog owners might be able to tell guilt sometimes?

I read the article and suppose I might fit some of the arguments it makes. Perhaps there are two interpretations of guilt in this instance. One might be remorse, or concern which seems to be a slightly more complex emotion that they may or may not have. The other would simply be the admission of incorrect behaviour or having done the wrong thing, without necessarily having any remorse.


It's a strange one really. I bet that on a lot of occasions, I might not be able to tell guilt, or confuse behaviour with my own thoughts, but there do seem like some occasions when it might not be just a self delusion.


The incident yesterday is fresh in my mind. Somebody did leave a big brown present on the kitchen floor. I'm pretty sure that it wasn't me, or any one else in the house. That's not where we usually go....

So barring anything highly unusual, I am assuming that it was one of my two dogs.

When I went to see them, I was looking for clues as to the culprit. So, someone might argue that the thoughts of attributing guilt were already in my head, but surely one of them had to be guilty.

The point is that there was a marked difference in the behaviour of one of my dogs, moments after the offence in the kitchen had been discovered. This dog usually follows me around the house, bounds up to me when I come in, looks up to be fussed over or whatever. A happy springy border collie :D. On this occasion he was fidgeting, cowering and attempting to hide under the sofa. WTF?

I admittedly shout at them if they ever foul the house, because if I didn't, then they'd keep doing it. So, if he was concerned that this might happen, then he's aware that he did something wrong and worried about the consequences. He doesn't like being shouted at.

Surely that's an indication of guilt. Not necessarily remorse, but an indication that he may have "done the crime".

I'm not sure about this one.
Wed Sep 18, 2013 3:16 pm
InfernoContributorUser avatarPosts: 2298Joined: Thu Apr 30, 2009 7:36 pmLocation: Vienna, Austria Gender: Cake

Post Re: Can you tell a guilty dog?

Engelbert wrote:Do you mean true, in that the myth is correct, or true that actually dog owners might be able to tell guilt sometimes?


I'll try to be absolutely clear: I think dogs to show emotions and humans can see/feel them. I think better testing will reveal that.
However, I might well be wrong.
"Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth because they don't want their illusions destroyed." ― Friedrich Nietzsche

"I shall achieve my objectives through the power... of Science!" --LessWrong
Wed Sep 18, 2013 10:04 pm
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