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You know that look your dog gives you when they’ve done something wrong?

Every pet owner knows it; it’s that telltale expression of utter guilt. As soon as you see it, it’s only a matter of time before you find something broken or damaged in your home. If you have no idea what we’re talking about, it looks a lot like this:

Guilty dog

Over time, this has probably led you to believe that dogs know when they’ve done something wrong or screwed up, right?

Wrong.

Experts disagree with that notion, and they have the studies to back it up. Although dogs are capable of experiencing a range of emotions, feelings of guilt or shame don’t necessarily make the cut. Instead, studies suggest that dogs are simply reacting to their owner’s body language, rather than feeling remorse.

In other words, if you’re clearly upset with your dog, even if it isn’t justified, your pet may still throw on that distinctive “guilty” look.

The researchers came to this conclusion after performing a simple experiment: Owners would instruct their dogs not to eat a treat and then leave the room. Researchers then removed the treat themselves, while informing the owner that the dog actually ate it instead. Once their owners began scolding their pets, the dogs were found to display the guilty look even when they never ate the treat at all.

Guilty dog

“The results revealed no difference in behaviours associated with the guilty look,” the study concludes. “By contrast, more such behaviours were seen in trials when owners scolded their dogs.”

Now that it turns out you’ve been the one making your dog feel bad all this time, we just have one question: Who’s feeling guilty now?

Guilty dog

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