Dogs have emotions, including guilt, anger, envy, joy, pride, hate and fear, just like humans. So do we.
The biggest mistake most owners make is expecting them to be unconditionally loving and kind to their owners. But we should not be surprised if we get a response to our apologies — not from our dogs, but from their human friends.
“It’s pretty clear that it’s not about your attitude: It’s the humans who do not seem to understand what’s in the dog’s heart,” says Dr. David Gershoff, a behavioral scientist at the University of Nebraska Health Care Research Center. “To the best of our knowledge, we know of no evidence from any study to demonstrate that dogs are more or less forgiving to humans when presented with a situation where the human was harmed.”
However, studies have shown that dogs will feel even more remorse in the presence of other dogs than they will if they’re just handling a stranger (because it gives them the opportunity to make eye contact with other dog owners), so owners should be careful about interpreting these results.
So, if you’re the kind of person who makes an apology to your dog without considering what might trigger their feelings, try to be more specific about why you had to act that way.
“Most dogs don’t apologize unless they’re being punished,” says Kelly. “In that case, they may be feeling guilty and anxious about the punishment, but it’s not a situation that they can really put their full attention on. Sometimes, a dog will apologize after hearing someone else’s apology, and it’s hard to know exactly what’s going on. I think what most owners think is that they apologize because that’s what they’re used to and they want to show others that they can be forgiving.”
Dogs are more forgiving to strangers than they are to human family members. However, they’ll be more forgiving to strangers if they feel their own family is getting better at helping them.
There are two types of apologies that dogs make. First, they may apologize to the owner for leaving them behind so they can find a new home or they may go to the new home and try to make amends by making the owner feel good. (If your dog has a fear of dogs at first, you may want to consider having them go to a private play space before the apology is made, so they can avoid being too nearby when other dogs are around.)
Some owners use other apologies
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