A new study finds the guilt we see on our dogs’ faces may not signify guilt at all. In the study, owners were asked to tell their dog not to eat a treat and then they left the room. While the owner was out of the room, sometimes the dog was given the treat and others were not. Then the owners were sometimes told their dog was obedient and didn’t take the treat and sometimes the owner was told the dog did take the treat. What the owners were told was often not the truth.
If owners thought their dog looked guilty, it was due to the scientist telling them the dog had taken the treat and not to whether the dog had actually taken the treat. Dogs looked most “guilty” if their owners scolded them.
In fact, dogs that had been obedient and had not eaten the treat, but were scolded by their (misinformed) owners, looked more “guilty” than those that had, in fact, eaten the treat.
Next time you think your dog looks guilty, remember it’s your doing.