Have you ever gotten a bad haircut and felt embarrassed? Maybe you spilled coffee on your brand new white shirt on your way to work. As humans, we tend to feel embarrassed when something, well, embarrassing happens. But what about dogs? Can they feel this emotion?
We’ve got your answers.
According to former professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado – and author of “The Emotional Lives of Animals” – Dr. Marc Bekoff dogs, can, in fact, feeling embarrassed. After observing dogs for thousands of hours he concluded that dogs show feelings of “embarrassment, shyness, and humiliation.”
Neurobiologist at the University of Vienna, Dr. Frederick Range, agrees. His study concluded that dogs even have secondary emotions like “jealousy, guilt and empathy.”
But, not every animal behavior agrees. Those who disagree with Markoff and Range say that they are missing a few details when it comes to pups showing complex emotions like embarrassment.
Their argument is that dogs only experience “instant-reaction” emotions including joy, fear, sadness, and anger. Dogs would not be able to experience embarrassment as it is out of their emotional reach.
While the majority of dogs are shameless in just about everything they do – from raiding the trash to completely taking away all personal space – some dogs may get a little embarrassed from time to time.
For example, when you scold your four-legged friend for raiding the trash for the fifth time this week, what kind of look do they give you? Is it a, “I’m so sorry” look with those sad eyes? If so, they may be experiencing shame or embarrassment.
But that face isn’t an inherit quality of dogs. In fact, researchers at the University of Helsinki concluded that dogs picked up on the “shame face” after centuries of domestication. They used it as a way to make peace with their human counterparts.
Essentially our dogs read our faces and can tell when we are mad. Then, they look away in remorse.
Alexandra Horowitz, author of “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs Smell, See, and Know”, doesn’t believe dogs can feel embarrassment or shame. But, she does believe dogs have a strong natural talent for reading our feelings.
Although we may never truly know – for now – whether dogs actually feel shame or embarrassment, we can’t deny that they definitely act like they do sometimes.
What do you think? Do you think that dogs can feel embarrassment? Or do you think that is too complex of an emotion for them? Let us know in the comments below!