"He looks guilty!"- Spoiler: This look is not what it seems.

04/03/2020

We walk in the house and see our cute little pup sound asleep laying in a pile of pillow fluff he pulled out all over the living room while we were gone. 

We're instantly hit with some emotions of "Oh no, now I have to clean all of this up AGAIN!" or "Oh, he's so cute, but what a mess." But, often the feelings WE have in those moments aren't calm, happy or encouraging.

So, pup wakes up, stretches and trots over to us, but soon, they change their demeanor from happy-go-lucky to what can appear to be a guilty look. A look some owners describe as "He knows what he did was wrong." "It must have been this dog and not the other one because of how he's looking right now." Etc.

What happened? Their body language is mimicking ours, they're responding to our body language, tone of voice, facial expressions. I promise you, they DO know you're upset in that moment, but they do NOT know why. You may go over to an item and think scolding them will help in some way. It won't. That's us humans trying to rationalize, problem-solve and communicate as if our pups were humans. They're not.

We need to step away from this myth, as it is not helpful for the actual training of your pups, nor does it send a positive message or even allow a proper learning moment. They are DOGS. Anthropomorphism is a common mistake we  make when interacting with the animals in our lives. Here is a good article about this issue.

Instead, let's evaluate what WE can do differently to set our pups up for success and provide a safe learning environment.

How to handle these moments instead? Greet your dog as normal, have them go outside or in another room and clean up the mess in their absence, so as not to draw attention to the pillow fluff- this can be confusing for dogs as they will see this as play time! Next time, put your pups in a proper kennel, play pen or other safe confinement area like a room with baby gates limiting their access to off-limits or unsafe items.