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Feeling No Shame

Oliver shaming
Dog shaming has become an entertaining and amusing past time, with internet sites and YouTube videos galore. Yet expert behaviorists insist that dogs lack the capacity to feel shame. The guilty look they give us - head cowered, ears back, and soulful eyes - is a reaction to the anger you are expressing through the tone of your voice. Dogs live in the “now” and they can’t make the connection between your anger and something they did hours, or even minutes, earlier. That is why any dog trainer worthy of the job will tell you that if you don’t catch your dog in the act of doing a bad behavior, there is no benefit to disciplining them.

“Just get over it and remind yourself not to put temptation in the way next time,” says Dr. Bonnie Beaver, a professor at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.

Even people who get great laughs out of dog shaming, like Pascale Lemire, the creator of the oldest and first website to publish those types of photos, will admit to the fallacy. “I don’t think dogs actually feel shame,” Lemire says. “I think they know how to placate us with this sad puppy-dog look that makes us think they’re ashamed of what they’ve done.”

So remember, if you just want to have fun and shame your dog with a proclamation and a photo, go right ahead. But if you really want to change the behavior, you need to take the responsibility and remove the temptation or work with a professional trainer to eliminate the behavior.
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