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Do Dogs Feel Guilty? Emotional Intelligence in Dogs Explained.

Do dogs have the same emotions as humans?

Have you ever thought your dog could relate to you on a different level; that they felt empathy towards you, were loving and affectionate, or even disgusted with the food you put down?  According to Dr. Stanley Coren, a professor of Psychology at UBC, and award winning behavioural researcher, dog’s emotions are similar to a young child’s.  Researchers now believe a dog’s mind is roughly equivalent to a 2.5 year old child’s mind.  This conclusion holds true for most mental abilities, including emotions.

This developmental sequence in young children is the golden key to understanding the emotions of dogs. Dogs go through their developmental stages much more quickly than humans, and possess all the emotional range they will ever achieve by the time they are around six months of age (depending on the rate of maturation within their breed). However, we know that the assortment of emotions available to the dog will not exceed that which is available to a 2½-year-old human. This means that a dog will have all the basic emotions — joy, fear, anger, disgust, and even love. However, he will not feel the more complex emotions such as guilt, pride and shame.

Many people might argue that they have seen evidence indicating their dogs are capable of feeling guilt. The typical situation is when you come home and your dog starts slinking around and showing discomfort; then you find he has left a smelly brown deposit on your kitchen floor. It’s natural to conclude that the dog was acting in a way that shows he is feeling guilty about his transgression. However, this is not guilt; it’s simply the more basic emotion of fear. The dog has learned that when you appear and his droppings are visible on the floor, bad things happen. What you see is his fear of punishment — he will never feel guilt.

So what does this mean for those of us who live and interact with dogs? The good news is that you can feel free to dress your dog in that silly party costume. He will not feel shame, regardless of how ridiculous he looks. He will also not feel pride at winning a prize at a dog show or obedience competition. But your dog can still feel love for you, and experience contentment when you are around — and those are the emotions we truly value.

Source:  Canadian Dog magazine- Do Dogs Have the Same Emotions People Do?

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