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There’s a lot to love about dogs; but I think my favorite thing is that they’re absolutely shameless. Whether they’re sticking their face in a friend’s butt, or scream-barking out in the park, or scarfing down trash at the first opportunity: dogs are proud, magnificent goofballs.
But sometimes our dogs *do* seem to get a little embarrassed. Like when you catch your dog in the middle of some less-than-professional business in the living room, and you snap into Angry Mom mode, and they give you those sad “who, me?” eyes… you know they know that they feel a little foolish.
So, what's going on there, exactly? Let’s put it to our trusty friend, Science!
Researchers at the University of Helsinki took a look at your dog’s shame face
. Their conclusion: our pups picked up the shame face over centuries of domestication, as a tactic to make peace with their human friends. So our dogs read our faces and tell when we’re mad- and they look away to show remorse.
Marc Bekoff, author of The Emotional Lives of Animals
, says that dogs can experience “embarrassment, shyness and humiliation” (aww, sorry pups!) But most researchers side with Alexandra Horowitz, author of Inside of a Dog: What Dogs Smell, See, and Know
. Horowitz credits dogs for their strong talent for reading our own feelings, but considers "shame" or "embarrassment" too complex for their understanding.
My investigation: An interview with Ziggy
Interesting as the research might be, it just doesn’t compare to good old fashioned paw-to-paw evidence. So I sat down for an interview with Ziggy, the most awkward dog in the BarkPost office. Below, a brief transcript of our interview.
Will: Thank you for joining me today, Ziggy.
Ziggy: (blank stare, smile)
Will: Ziggy, you’re rather famous in our office for your, well, awkwardness. Let me read you some quotes from earlier this week, when you had a bad case of gas after dinner. These are real quotes, Ziggy.
“It’s making me wonder if I ever want to breathe again” - Chris.
“I’m gonna go blind in one eye.” - Marcus.
“This is a big office and he just hotboxed us all.” - Zoe… your own mother.
Ziggy, would you say that was… embarrassing?
Ziggy: (blank stare, smile)
Ziggy was proving a tough nut to crack. I had to bust out the big guns.
Will: Ziggy, I recently found this book under your dog bed
. Do you recognize it?
Will: This diary seems to be in your paw-writing. Let me read you an excerpt: “DO NOT TELL ANYONE ABOUT MY CRUSH. It’s my–”
Well, after the events of that interview, I believe that dogs can indeed get embarrassed. If you’ll excuse me, I have to go make this up to Ziggy.
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