The vast array of animals in our world have a range of emotions and can experience feelings of joy, anger, disgust, frustration, and love. They can also experience complex emotions like guilt, pride, and shame; but what is the extent of dogs’ emotions? Do dogs get embarrassed?
As a dog owner, it’s important to understand the different emotions your pet might be feeling, and how those emotions present themselves in your dog’s body language. Knowing the signs can help you identify their feelings, and when you identify these secondary emotions accurately, you’ll know how to react or how to handle your pet so you can avoid negative behaviors that might arise from their emotions.
If you want to know whether your dog is experiencing some form of embarrassment and what these feelings might mean for you and your pet, then this is the right guide for you.
Do Dogs Get Embarrassed?
When it comes to basic emotions, dogs are relatively simple to read. With most pets, you’ll easily be able to tell what type of mood your four-legged friend is in. It’s easy to see when they’re happy, sad, afraid, or angry by the way their bodies react and the sounds they make.
However, identifying complex emotional responses isn’t quite as easy because dogs can’t always communicate these kinds of emotions through their behaviors. Even canine behavior specialists sometimes have a tough time identifying some emotions.
Most animal behaviorists believe that embarrassment is an emotion that’s too complex for pets to have. They believe that the emotions dogs portray when they do something wrong are feelings of guilt or fear. Behavior consultants believe that dogs can only experience instant reactions. The research into complex animal emotions is, however, still in its infancy.
Despite this, a lot of pet owners do believe that their dogs feel embarrassed. It does appear that dogs can feel embarrassed in a way, and though they might not experience social humiliation the way that humans do, they certainly experience some form of guilt for their bad behaviors.
Some dogs can be shy and self-conscious when they’re put into unfamiliar situations with strange pets and people, and they’ve even been known to mourn the loss of friends or human companions extremely deeply.
It’s not too far-fetched to believe that your dog can feel some form of embarrassment when they have so many other heightened behaviors and feelings.
Signs Your Dog is Embarrassed
Dogs will display their feelings through different body language. If you want to know if your pet is feeling embarrassed, then you only need to look at the body language signal your pet is sending out.
Here’s a quick look at some sights that point to embarrassment in dogs:
- They avoid eye contact
- They show submissive behavior
- They tuck their tails between their legs
- Strange walking or movements
- Pinning their ears down
- They furrow their brows
- They cower a little – some might even hide
- Showing signs of jealousy
- Showing signs of anger
- They might roll around on the ground
- Their posture shifts from confident to limp and shy
- They show signs of anxiousness
- They might avert their eyes but maintain a waving tail
The most common signs of embarrassment in dogs include cowering, droopy ears, averting eyes, and tail tucking.
Do Dogs Get Embarrassed? And If So, When?
Pets can start to feel guilty or awkward for all sorts of reasons and in a variety of situations. It’s also pretty easy to confuse embarrassment with guilt or fear.
Here’s an overview of a few common scenarios where pet owners feel that their dogs become embarrassed. I’ll explore these scenarios to see if dogs are able to feel embarrassment in those situations, or if their behavior is misinterpreted.
Do Dogs Get Embarrassed to Poop in Front of You?
Dogs might be able to feel emotions that are very similar to embarrassment, but they can’t feel embarrassed to poop in front of you.
A dog’s feces contains scents to alert other animals and mark their territories. Your dog may smell another dog’s feces so they can determine whether that dog might be dangerous, available for mating, or if they’ve met that dog before. Since animals use poop as a means of communication, it isn’t very likely that your dog will be embarrassed about defecating at all.
A dog may seem embarrassed to poop in front of you if they look around, take a while to find a spot to go, or turn away from you as they poop. These supposed signs of embarrassment aren’t really signs at all, but rather, are likely how dogs check their surroundings for predators or mark territories.
Dogs that have been mistreated might be afraid to poop in front of you because they associate pooping in front of their owners with violent reactions.
Do Dogs Get Embarrassed When We Dress Them Up?
Some pet owners feel that their pets get embarrassed about the clothes they dress them in because of the way they might react.
Many pet owners can agree that it’s fun to dress up their dogs in hilarious outfits, and most pets are perfectly fine with a simple winter jacket that allows them to move with ease, but others might feel annoyed when you dress them up in clothing that feels uncomfortable to move in.
The chances that your pet might be embarrassed by its outfit are pretty slim. The color perception of dogs is very limited, and it goes without saying that they have no perception of style and therefore can’t feel embarrassed about what they’re wearing.
If a dog acts strangely when they’re dressed up, it’s likely due to discomfort or a feeling of physical awkwardness and restricted movement.
Do Dogs Get Embarrassed When They Do Something Wrong?
Have you ever come home and noticed your dog cowering in its bed with its eyes cast to the ground? After doing some investigation, you probably found signs of mischief like chewed-up toilet paper rolls, poop in the living room, or a dead animal in your backyard.
The body language your dog displays certainly looks a lot like embarrassment, and it’s entirely possible that your dog might be experiencing awkward feelings. That said, it’s probably more reasonable to assume that your dog might simply be afraid of being reprimanded when you discover its mischief.
How to Interact With a Dog That Gets Embarrassed
If you’ve ever been in an embarrassing situation then you probably know how intense, frightening and horrible these feelings can be.
Even those who don’t believe that dogs can get embarrassed have to agree that their pets are not feeling their best when they start showing submissive behaviors.
The best thing you can do is to comfort your poor pup. It isn’t very humane to let the animal suffer through all of those complex emotions.
Not all dogs react the same when they get embarrassed, so you can’t treat all embarrassed dogs exactly the same way. Here are a few different ways to handle your dog when it seems mortified.
Submissive dogs: If your dog shows signs of submission like rolling over, avoiding eye contact, a tucked-in tail, or pinned ears, then it’s best to give it attention so it can get over it.
Reactive dogs: Some dogs might react badly because of their embarrassment. If your dog is behaving poorly, then it’s best to send them to their crate or bed.
Fearful dogs: Dogs that run away, hide, or cower need your encouragement or they can start developing anxiety. You need to give these dogs a lot of patience and love so they can overcome their fear and their negative feelings.
Should I Shame My Pet?
Photos of embarrassed pets has been a trend on the internet for years. You’ve probably been on Facebook and scrolled by pictures of guilty-looking pets sitting next to signs with sayings like “I ate my humans’ homework”, “I ate the cat’s litter”, or “I pooped in daddy’s shoes”.
While this type of shaming can make for a funny picture, it isn’t constructive, and neither is harsh physical or verbal punishment.
Positive reinforcement is a much better way to train your dog than pet shaming. Give your dog rewards or praise when they do something right. Ignore bad behaviors completely and try to implement ways to keep your pet busy in a non-destructive way.
Clicker training can also be very helpful for improving your pet’s behavior. This method is done by using a clicker device. You click the device to acknowledge good behavior in your dog every time they do something right, and give them a treat. Eventually, the dog will associate the clicking sound and that particular behavior with a yummy reward.
Do dogs get embarrassed? The answer isn’t as straightforward as you may like it to be, as research into dog behavior is still developing. But one thing’s for sure, it’s important to treat your dog right whether you believe that they feel embarrassed or not.
Even if you do believe that your dog can’t get embarrassed, it’s certain that they can feel afraid, anxious, or sad. It’s good to help your dog overcome these feelings. The best way to help dogs overcome negative feelings is by treating them with heaps of love, attention, and training.
Love you guys,
P.S. If you’re new to this world, you may want to check out my Ultimate Guide for First Time Dog Parents. It’s a great reference to get you started on this journey.
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Disclaimer: The Can My Dog articles contain information based on the individual research and opinions of the author of the site – who just so happens to be a dog. How you utilize the information given is completely up to you. Proceed at your own risk.