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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 09-29-2010, 08:22 PM Thread Starter
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Guilty

Although you may think your dog may feel GUILT , it's not what you think. Here's an article from APDT Ireland, followed by a link to a research article.

Pups and dogs are completely incapable of making a link between something they did a few seconds/minutes/hours ago, and why you’re annoyed now. Picture the scene: pup is left alone in the kitchen. He needs to go to the toilet, so he squats and pees on the floor. A minute later, his owner comes in, sees the pee, scowls at the pup, then puts him out in the garden alone for half an hour. We might think that this is teaching the pup a good lesson, but let’s look at what’s actually happening.

Pup feels the need to pee. So he pees. Nothing wrong with that, we all do it! Owner walks back into room, and seems annoyed. In fact, they have “that” face on that means pup is going to get pegged out into the garden. Pup hates being left alone in the garden, and starts to act submissively, trying to appease the owner. Owner points at puddle on floor. Pup has no idea why. He neither speaks English, or is capable of making the connection between the puddle and himself. Pup bows his head some more, looking doleful, sad and… GUILTY! “Aha!” says the owner, “he KNOWS he’s done wrong!” No, he doesn’t. What you’re looking at is canine appeasement signals. He is trying to calm you down, but remember that he has NO IDEA WHY YOU’RE ANGRY IN THE FIRST PLACE! If you don’t believe me, try this: walk into the room, and find your pup doing something “good”. Stride over to him and talk to him in a scolding voice. Watch those same signals appear: lip-licking, ears down, head bowed, even turning over to show you his tummy. It is clear that the pup is not feeling guilt. Why should he feel guilty for doing something good? No, I’m afraid that it’s time we accepted that dogs cannot feel guilt. That seems to be a purely human emotion! And we are horribly mistaken if we think that our scolding the pup is teaching him anything other than to be a bit frightened of us sometimes, especially when we have “that” face on!
And for the research article http://www.livescience.com/animals/0...ilty-dogs.html and another linked article
In his 1996 book Good Natured, ethologist Frans de Waal discusses an experiment on guilt and reprimands conducted on a female Siberian husky. The dog had the habit of shredding newspapers, and when her owner returned home to find the shredded papers and scold her she would act guilty. However, when the owner himself shredded the papers without the dog's knowledge, the dog "acted just as 'guilty' as when she herself had created the mess." De Waal concludes that the "guilt" displayed by dogs is not true guilt but rather the anticipation of the behavior of an angry superior in a given situation.[3]

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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 09-30-2010, 07:32 AM
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People don't give dogs enough credit. They understand a whole lot more than we give them credit for.

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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 09-30-2010, 01:06 PM
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While it may be true that dogs do not feel guilt, I struggle with the example you give. Their memory/recall is supposed to be very short, just a few seconds, but if caught in the act (whether the act be good or bad) they do begin to link our response with their actions. So, if we walk into the room and catch them doing something good (as you suggest) but provide a negative response, we are conditioning them to understand that what they are doing is not really good at all. They may not feel guilty about their behavior but their response certainly suggests they understand "bad" or "wrong". Consequently, they will learn not to do it again. Granted we must repeat the action/reaction cycle thousands of times before the link is made given their lack of recall. Otherwise, dogs would be untrainable.

I also agree with JASHavanese. For example, sometimes a dog takes a dislike to a person (for whatever reason) they've met once. They might not see this person again for months or years but when they do their behavior towards this person suggests they have some long term recall.

I'm no expert (as evidenced by my newbie posts) when it comes to human OR doggy behavior. I do believe we don't know everything about how their brains work.
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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 09-30-2010, 05:16 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ellie NY View Post
While it may be true that dogs do not feel guilt, I struggle with the example you give. Their memory/recall is supposed to be very short, just a few seconds, but if caught in the act (whether the act be good or bad) they do begin to link our response with their actions. So, if we walk into the room and catch them doing something good (as you suggest) but provide a negative response, we are conditioning them to understand that what they are doing is not really good at all. They may not feel guilty about their behavior but their response certainly suggests they understand "bad" or "wrong". Consequently, they will learn not to do it again. Granted we must repeat the action/reaction cycle thousands of times before the link is made given their lack of recall. Otherwise, dogs would be untrainable.

I also agree with JASHavanese. For example, sometimes a dog takes a dislike to a person (for whatever reason) they've met once. They might not see this person again for months or years but when they do their behavior towards this person suggests they have some long term recall.

I'm no expert (as evidenced by my newbie posts) when it comes to human OR doggy behavior. I do believe we don't know everything about how their brains work.
Hi Ellie, these are not my articles. These are by behaviorists. Dog's don't know "right from wrong" ,only safe from unsafe. They are not moral creatures like ourselves. They are capable of more than we think. They are masters at reading us. That's why they are "looking guilty. " ,they are reading our body language etc. and are reacting to that. The experiments in this research illustrate that. That is why behaviorists tell us not to punish them after the fact. Most training has to be instantaneous when rewarding or punishing for them to know what is the correct or wrong action. The example given is one of many that illustrate this principle. Yes , there's no doubt that dogs have long term memory but that doesn't lead to a feeling of guilt, but to safe and unsafe like I mentioned.

Dave and Molly
Ian Dunbar was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award from I.P.D.T.A. Here's a picture of me accepting the award on his behalf.
Member of IAABC ,International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants , Member of Pet Professional Guild

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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 10-01-2010, 07:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ellie NY View Post
For example, sometimes a dog takes a dislike to a person (for whatever reason) they've met once. They might not see this person again for months or years but when they do their behavior towards this person suggests they have some long term recall.

I'm no expert (as evidenced by my newbie posts) when it comes to human OR doggy behavior. I do believe we don't know everything about how their brains work.
Dogs DEFINITELY have long term recall. It varies from dog to dog, but most DO NOT need a huge number of repetitions to learn a new behavior. The trick is to make the CONNECTION between the behavior and the cue. (and, of course, the dog needs to WANT to work for/with you) It's much harder than one might think to get a new idea across to a being that doesn't share language with you. (try teaching another PERSON something without using any language!!!)

HOWEVER, it's much easier to teach them to DO something than it is to teach them NOT to do something. That's why so many dogs are great with basic commands like sit, down, shake, but their owners are still having trouble with potty training and barking. When you are teaching a dog NOT to do something, you are training away from something that already has intrinsic value for the dog, or they wouldn't be doing it.

The other problem that we have with dogs (and many animals) is that they do not generalize well. You can train them to do a sit-stay in your kitchen, but that knowledge does not immediately carry over into the back yard, let alone a public park. Each time you work an exercise in a new place, you make it easier for the dog to generalize that "we ALWAYS do X when my person says Y"

Same thing with potty training, and why it's important to extend their area of freedom slowly. The puppy first learns "I don't mess my crate (or bed)", that then becomes, "I don't mess my ex-pen", to "I don't mess in the kitchen"...

Many people get caught off-guard when their young dog, who is completely reliable in their house, goes to Grandma's house and has a "mistake". Everyone is shocked! He KNOWS better! Well, not really. It's not HIS house, and he hasn't yet learned that you don't eliminate inside ANY building. THAT takes a LOT longer!

So it's not a memory issue... it's a lack of ability to generalize their knowledge base to new situations.


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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 10-01-2010, 07:10 PM Thread Starter
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Good points Karen. Just one thing about "generalization" . You're right ,dogs don't generalize well when it comes to training. They are much better at discriminating. But they can generalize (unfortunately too well) when it comes to aversive events. An example being a dog that is scared when young by a man with a beard. The dog can then generalize this fear to all men with beards later on. This can force an owner to grow a beard. LOL

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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 10-01-2010, 09:19 PM
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Well, generalization is a hardER part of learning for dogs, but there are things that make a big enough impression that they carry over from one place to another. (like those aversive events... after Kodi got attacked by another dog, it took a lot of RE-training to get him feeling comfortable around other dogs in general again)

OTOH, sometimes they astound you by making cognitive leaps that leave you scratching your head and thinking, "where did that come from?" I STILL can't figure out what made Kodi decide that the litter box was the place to vomit. But if he's in the house and needs to vomit, that's where he goes. (of course, then he acts "like a dog" and if I don't get to it before he has a chance, he'll try eating it again!)


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