Most dog owners know what the 'guilty look' looks like when their dog does something they shouldn't have. Well, it seems that it's not actually guilt that your dog is feeling...
Do dogs feel guilt?
Usually, when a dog has done something they know they shouldn't have, their face says it all. They cower, look up at us, maybe pin their ears back, yawn or lick the air. And us, as humans, see that look as guilt.
Actually, these are all characteristic signs of fear in a dog! This assertion was based on a 2009 study by the dog cognition scientist Dr. Alexandra Horowitz, author of 2009's "Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know" and 2016's "Being a Dog: Following the Dog Into a World of Smell."
It is said that humans tend to misattribute dog emotions based on human emotions. The study found that dogs demonstrating a guilty look were actually demonstrating fear of scolding rather than guilt.
Do dogs experience guilt?
In reality, dogs don't think the same way we do. But their brains are certainly more similar than dissimilar to ours. Saying that, they don't reflect on their past actions and decide they have done something wrong.
Dogs have memories, but most likely don't think of those memories in the same way that we do as humans. There haven't been enough scientific studies to explain how dogs experience emotions and memories.
Does your dog give you that 'guilty' look?