The next time you start shaking your finger and shouting “Shame on you!” because your dog chewed up your favorite fuzzy slippers, just remember that no matter how guilty your dog looks, it doesn’t know what your rant is about.
Behaviorists insist dogs lack shame. The guilty look — head cowered, ears back, eyes droopy — is a reaction to the tantrum you are throwing now over the damage they did hours earlier.
“Just get over it and remind yourself not to put temptation in the way next time,” said Dr. Bonnie Beaver, a professor at Texas A&M University’sCollege of Veterinary Medicine and executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.
But scientific findings have not put a dent in the popularity of online dog shaming sites like dogshaming.com and shameyourpet.com or videos like those posted on youtube.com/crackrockcandy. In the photos and videos, dogs wear humorous written “confessions” and often are surrounded by the remnants of their misdeeds. There is no question that in some photos, they look guilty of eating, drinking, chewing, licking or destroying something they shouldn’t have.
Dogshaming.com was the first and is among the most popular sites. Since Pascale Lemire started it in August 2012, it has received more than 58 million page views and more than 65,000 submissions. A submission has to come with a photo showing the dog’s guilty look.
Lemire, who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, also published a book called “Dog Shaming,” which hit the New York Times best-seller list in January.
“I don’t think dogs actually feel shame,” Lemire said. “I think they know how to placate us with this sad puppy-dog look that makes us think they’re ashamed of what they’ve done. My guess is that their thinking is: ‘Oh man, my owner is super mad about something, but I don’t know what, but he seems to calm down when I give him the sad face, so let’s try that again.’”