Dogs are greatly loved animals and man’s best friend; hence, humans spend so much time with these fur animals. This relationship means humans see several dog behaviors, even some that may be difficult to understand or easy to wrongly interpret.
For example, several people believe dogs feel shame when they poop. This article will help determine whether this belief is true while also examining dog emotions.
Does science back up the beliefs about dog poop shame? Is it merely a projection of human feelings? Read on to find out!
The dog poop shame belief
Dogs have been the companion of human beings since time immemorial. They are known to be patient, friendly, and loyal. For as long as this long-standing relationship between dogs and humans has existed, humans have tried to understand dogs’ emotions and actions. While the essence of this understanding is to foster care for our furry companion better, humans do not always get it right.
The idea that dogs feel ashamed when they poop is a myth that has existed for several years. And it can be attributed to human attempts to understand dog emotions. Although there is yet to be scientific evidence to prove that dogs feel shame when they poop, the idea has been passed down from generation to generation.
This idea is simulated in movies, cartoons, and social media platforms. In such cases, the dog involved is depicted to be ashamed or sad while excreting in public.
Why do humans resonate with the dog poop shame belief?
One primary reason why humans relate dog pooping to feelings of shame or guilt is that that is human behavior. Many dog owners tend to project their emotions and reactions on their dogs. This is called anthropomorphism, describing when human beings attribute their thoughts, actions, or feelings to animals or objects.
Imagine the look you see on a potty-trained child who messes up the environment and poops in a wrong place. You can tell the child feels ashamed, especially when he gets scolded for his actions. Now, seeing a similar expression on a dog’s face, one would easily assume the dog also feels ashamed about pooping in the wrong location.
Another reason why human beings may feel like dogs feel shame when they poop is because dogs have spent so much time with humans. Dogs have been domesticated for several decades and, as such, have learned to understand and respond to cues and actions from humans. However, a dog’s response may not mean what humans expect.
For instance, when your dog does something wrong, like poop in the house or pees on the furniture, you may react by scolding them or raising your voice. Your dog could then respond by lowering their head or cowering; you may wrongly interpret it as guilt. The truth is, your dog may not be feeling as bad as you think.
They may recognize you are upset, so they lower their head. However, this does not mean they realize what they have done was wrong; it could simply be them responding to how you feel.
The science of dog emotions
Before deciding if dogs feel shame when they poop, we must understand how dog emotions work. Dogs experience happiness, sadness, fear, and even jealousy, like humans. However, dogs are different from humans in the complexity of their emotions.
Dogs experience fewer complex ranges of emotions than humans. Hence, dogs may feel fear but cannot feel guilt, worry, shame, or pride. Like toddlers, dogs cannot deal with complex emotions or worry about futuristic events. Dogs live in the present and view the world more straightforwardly than adults.
Another way the science of dog emotions differs from human emotions is how both parties express how they feel. While human expressions are majorly verbal and with minor use of body language or facial expressions, dogs majorly communicate with their bodies and facial expressions.
When a dog is excited, you can see it wagging its tail enthusiastically; also, when it is downcast, you can tell by its ear position or facial expressions.
Dogs communicate with each other and humans through smells, sights, sounds, and several other ways. You just have to pay attention to your dog’s body positions and expressions, and you can tell their emotions. Tag wagging is a typical example; when your dog’s tail is lowered, it could be a sign that your dog is fearful. Other signs to look out for are
- Body posture: A dog’s posture or position can also indicate a dog’s emotions. If a dog is in a submissive position, you can easily say he is comfortable; however, when he stands tall and has his ears forward, this dog may be aggressive.
- Vocalization: This is another way by which dogs communicate their emotions. They make several sounds to express their happiness or sadness. For example, dogs may bark or yip when they see their owners. They may also growl when they are scared or whimper when hurt or scared.
- Licking and smelling: Dogs also communicate with their sensory organs, like tongues and nostrils. A dog may lick its owner or other dogs to show affection or care. Dogs also communicate by creating boundaries with their pee, so when other dogs smell it, they know a dog had previously occupied the space.
Dogs exhibit numerous behaviors to express common emotions like excitement, loneliness, fear, or anxiety. There are also dog behaviors that are peculiar to activities like pooping. Some of these include sniffing, circling, and burying.
Dog poop behaviors and their interpretation
When you see your dog burying their feces after pooping, you may wonder what he is trying to hide. This and some other poop behaviors exhibited by dogs is a way dogs may be communicating with their owners or other dogs.
Sniffing is a typical dog poop behavior, and it mostly happens when you take your dog out to relieve himself. Dogs typically have a great sense of smell, so they try to use this to find out information about the area where they do their business. Dogs can gather information about other dogs that were previously in that space.
Squatting is another behavior that is common among dogs of different breeds. Dogs squat when they are about to poop as the contraction of muscles caused by the positions helps to push poop out. So, it is common to see dogs bend or squat when they are about to relieve themselves.
Have you ever watched your dog turn around in circles before finally going down to relieve himself? It may seem funny as it’s difficult to tell what is happening with your dog. The truth, however, is that dogs try to ensure that their environment is safe and secure before getting vulnerable by trying to poop. Hence, they circle an area to clear it of potential threats or harm.
Dogs are very intuitive animals. One of the ways dogs use their instincts to stay clear of predators or harm is to bury their poop. Burying their poop is a natural method to hide their scents; it could also be a method to mark territories from other dogs in the environment.
Therefore, dogs use behaviors like sniffing, burying their poop, or circling to communicate with other dogs, predators, or humans. Understanding these behaviors can help pet owners better understand their dogs.
Another common behavior many people have difficulties interpreting is dogs looking up at their owners while they poop. The popular myth is that dogs feel shame while they poop, so they have funny expressions. We will discuss this further below.
The myth of dog poop shame dispelled
The above section shows that dogs are particular about their safety when getting into vulnerable positions like squatting to poop. Hence, they exhibit behaviors like circling the area, sniffing, and being on high alert before relieving themselves.
This alertness exhibited by dogs is inherent in their species as it was passed down from their ancestry (that used to live in the wild and had to fend for themselves). While you are with your dog when he does his business, it is expected that he sees you as part of his pack and trusts you will alert him in case of possible dangers.
Hence, when your dog stares at you or looks funny while pooing, he does not feel ashamed. Dogs are incapable of feeling shame, as established earlier. What dogs expect when they look at you in such a vulnerable state is a cue from you about a potential threat.
You can further assure your dog and make them feel comfortable about pooping in public by staying close to them, giving them treats, and petting them after every successful pooping session. You should also try not to scare your dog by making sudden shifts or alarming movements.
Dogs deserve to be protected and well cared for as the best companions humans have ever had. This means humans constantly try to understand dogs’ emotions and behaviors; this birthed the belief that dogs feel shame when they poop.
The truth, however, is that while dogs show certain behaviors that we may interpret as shame, they cannot exhibit complex emotions. The look your dog gives you while they poop is a look to show that they trust that you are on their team.