Us humans get embarrassed by a range of things. Whether it’s a bad haircut, or an awkward encounter with an old flame, or even just a trip and fall in a public space. It happens. But what about your dogs? Can dogs feel embarrassed?
Dogs can be funny little creatures, they can bring so much joy and emotion into our lives, but what about their own emotions?
Dogs can trip over, or be spooked by the silliest of things, but will this make them feel a sense of embarrassment? That’s what this guide is here to find out!
Do Dogs Get Embarrassed Just Like We Do?
Have you ever dressed your dog in a sweater for the family Christmas photo?
Or put them in a Halloween costume that matches yours? I don’t know about you, but if I do this to my dog I am instantly met with such a sad and bashful face, that I feel terrible about it and take it off her immediately. Is this the look of total embarrassment?
Dog emotions are different to ours, and it is hard for us to understand how they are actually feeling because they cannot speak to us. Instead, we try to communicate with them, and dogs communicate with us through their body language.
We understand that a wagging tail means happiness, and bared teeth means aggression, or a tucked in tail and curled back ears may mean that they are anxious or scared.
This is why many people believe that dogs can be embarrassed, because they show recognizable signs that they feel awkward, uncomfortable and embarrassed by certain situations.
We recognize certain behavioral cues that show us that our dogs feel a certain way. So, what are these cues?
Signs Your Dog May Be Embarrassed
There are many behavioral signs that your dog may be embarrassed by something.
For instance, you may notice a change in their demeanor, or how they carry themselves. When a dog does something silly or goofy, they may not want to make eye contact with you, which is a huge sign of embarrassment.
They may also become submissive, and look shy, sheepish or ashamed of their behavior.
This could be a sign that your dog is feeling embarrassed. In addition, your dog may cower, tuck its tail under itself, walk in a different manner, or pin its ears back. Some dogs may even cower and hide because the embarrassment is too much to handle!
Why Do Dogs Get Embarrassed?
Most of the time, dogs will get embarrassed because of something silly that they did, such as tripping over something, falling over or getting spooked by nothing.
However, for the most part, dogs will seemingly get embarrassed because of their dog parents making them do something goofy, or making fun of them.
For instance, if you put antler ears on your dog during the holiday season, or take pictures of them dressed up in silly outfits. The dog can often feel a bit…well, humiliated.
The Science Behind Dogs Getting Embarrassed
There is a lot of debate around whether dogs can really feel embarrassment, as this is a complex emotion, or whether humans project their own emotions onto dogs, and read their body language in a different way.
Some scientists also believe that dogs just react to our own body language, so if we are laughing hysterically and poking fun at our canine companions, they are just reacting in a way that they deem appropriate to these emotions.
Most scientists disagree on the notion of a dog feeling embarrassed. Some canine behaviorists such as Dr. Marc Bekoff, think that they feel shy, anxious and embarrassed by certain situations, or even humiliated by something that they have done.
On the other hand, researchers suggest that dogs react based on human emotions and other stimuli, and cannot comprehend a complicated and complex social situation where they would need to feel embarrassed of their behavior.
To feel embarrassed about something that they did, a dog would need to understand social norms and morals, in the same way that humans do, to comprehend that what they did was funny or embarrassment-worthy.
The problem is that dogs cannot tell us how they feel, or help us understand what is going on inside of their heads.
All that we can do is study them, and take notes of their behavior and body language to comprehend how they may be feeling. We can then infer the meaning behind what they do.
However, dogs can also learn and inherit signals from humans to appease us.
These signals are learned through our behavior, and so we do not know for sure whether a dog actually feels embarrassed, or whether they are just reacting to things that we do ourselves.
To summarize, you know your dog better than anyone else. You know their little quirks, behaviors and actions and what they mean.
When we spend so much time with our furry friends, they learn how to communicate with us, and we learn how to communicate with them. Certain actions and reactions can mean something.
So, can they feel emotions such as embarrassment? Many researchers suggest that dogs can feel embarrassed, and exhibit signs in their body language that they feel this way such as cowering, or not making eye contact.
Other scientists suggest that dogs do not have the cognitive ability or function to understand complex emotions such as embarrassment, and simply learn certain behaviors from humans, or that humans project their own emotions onto dogs to try and understand them.