June 13, 2009

Study nixes guilty dog assumptions

A New York researcher says dogs that appear guilty when being scolded by their owners can be innocent and simply responding to owners' verbal attacks.

Researchers such as Barnard College assistant professor Alexandra Horowitz insist they found that dogs appear to have a guilty look after being accused of misbehaving due to being scolded and not always due to actual guilt, The Daily Telegraph (Britain) said Saturday.

The study involved researchers informing participating dog owners their animal had misbehaved despite the fact the canines were completely innocent.

The researchers said informed owners claimed to notice a look of guilt in their animals while reprimanding the dogs, the Telegraph reported.

Horowitz, whose study was published in Behavioral Processes journal, said such an act represented owners projecting their values onto the innocent dogs.

Merely uttering a dog's name with a rising, accusatory tone is often enough to elicit pre-emptive submissive behavior, Horowitz said.

The results indicate that the so-called guilty look is a response to owner scolding; it is not expressed more often when actually guilty.