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Guilty! He’s GUILTY I say!

Can you believe it? I’m sitting in a coffee shop working! Who’d a thunk it? I had an appointment cancel at the last minute yesterday and so I kept the babysitter and am giving myself permission to work without interruption. I think Amelia appreciates it as well. She’s got the undivided attention of a fantastic babysitter and I’ve got a few hours to do what I need to do today so I can give her more attention later today! That’s a Mom WIN if I’ve ever seen one J

Okay, back to dogs… We’ve all seen the video of “Denver”, the “guilty” dog. It’s cute to think that he is actually feeling remorse about getting into the cat’s Party Mix however this is most likely not actual “guilt” as we know it.

Dogs display a series of behaviors when they try to calm other dogs and their guardians. Dogs will avoid eye contact, show blinky eyes, hide, retract their lips or “grin”, pull their ears back, move slower than usual (cautious movement), and give low or tucked tail wags all to show another dog or person that they mean no harm and don’t want to cause trouble. “Denver” is a great example of all of these behaviors wrapped into one. While he certainly looks guilty to a person I suspect he is not.

Alexandra Horowicz, dog behavior researcher and expert, has studied this “guilty” phenomenon. Her research suggests that the dog’s “guilt” has more to do with human behavior than actual reality.

So how does a dog look guilty the moment you walk in the door? Well, if you’ve got a repeat offender, say a dog who enjoys getting into the garbage or tearing up a couch, your dog learns that when you come home and the house is messy they should worry.

Take for example, myself! I live with a counter surfer and a garbage eater. She usually doesn’t get into things because we’ve mitigated her opportunities over the past 7 years. We have Velcro on the trash can and keep the counters clear or edibles pushed back against the wall.

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However, when we forget and she gets into the trash we come home to this…

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However, in the past 2 years, Amelia has also joined the family and sometimes we get tired of picking up after her every 30 minutes just so we can leave the house. Everytime we come home and there is clutter on the floor Evey shows us the same guilty behaviors. So yesterday when I came home and Evey was again acting “guilty” I didn’t even notice until I saw the following scene…

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Yes she even peed on it! (which does not mean she is trying to dominate the garbage, it means she’s anxious) Note to self: exercise the pup more.

Now, my response to the above picture wasn’t to admonish my dog for being bad. *She does know better though*(sarcasm). I face palmed and said, “Bad Momma for not Velcroing the lid shut”. Just last week my husband and I were commenting on how good she’d been lately and that she would punish us sooner or later. Well, here it is. Next time I need to secure the lid better.

Is this something that I could train? Sure, however, NO amount training I do will be as effective as good management because she is able to reward herself, quite handsomely I might add, every time I leave the house. In my absence, this is a pretty difficult behavior to change.

If counter surfing or garbage eating were happening right in front of me, that would be a different story and much easier to train. I would train a rock solid “Go To Mat” behavior and add the “Protocol for Relaxation” so I could eventually, leave the room while cooking or making a yummy sandwich.

So back to guilt… ultimately Evey’s not guilty, she’s worried I’ll always come home angry. How sad?! Next time I’ll be happy there’s peed on garbage spread all over my house! HA! Not likely 😉

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