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The Dodo Resurrects the Dog’s “Guilty” Look

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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“I get it. Like you, I have known (and loved) dogs who have massacred pillows, invaded cabinets and made abstract art with toilet paper. I’ve felt confusion, disbelief, maybe even anger. And then, out of the corner of my eye, I spy the culprit with a downtrodden face, tail thumping on the ground. He knows he’s guilty.

The only problem is, it’s not what it seems. We’re duped. By ourselves.”

January 13, 2014 was a day of rebirth. It marked the resurrection of Raphus cucullatus, better known as the Dodo, a “mysterious bird we drove into extinction.” It is commonly described as “grossly obese and stupid,” although the biological accuracy of these attributions is limited.

Now, The Dodo is an online start-up exploring “our fierce and fraught bond with animals broadly and enthusiastically.” Led by Kerry Lauerman, Salon’s former Editor-in-Chief, The Dodo plans to “celebrate animals, and not just laugh at them.”

In this spirit, I joined The Dodo this weekend with Think Your Dog Has A “Guilty” Look? Think Again. The next time your dog misbehaves and “fesses up” with those big, sad eyes, think what the Dodo would say. It stinks to be misunderstood.

——

Photo: Doggie Portrait Session 1 via Andrew Morrell. Flickr Creative Commons

References
Hecht, J., Miklósi, Á, Gácsi, M. 2012. Behavioral assessment and owner perceptions of behaviors associated with guilt in dogs. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci Science. 139, 134–142.

Horowitz, A. 2009. Disambiguating the “guilty look”: salient prompts to a familiar dog behaviour. Behav. Processes 81, 447–452.

McConnell, P. 2005. For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend. Ballantine, New York.

Morris, P. H., Doe, C., Godsell, E. 2008. Secondary emotions in non-primate species? Behavioural reports and subjective claims by animal owners. Cogn. Emotion 22, 3–20.

Schenkel, R. 1967. Submission: Its features and functions in wolf and dog. Amer. Zool. 7, 319–329.

Vollmer, P.J. 1977. Do mischievous dogs reveal their “guilt”? Vet. Med., Small Anim. Clin. 72, 1002–1005.

Julie Hecht About the Author: Julie Hecht is a canine behavioral researcher and science writer in New York City. She would really like to meet your dog. Follow on Twitter @DogSpies.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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