There’s a scientific reason why your dog looks guilty when they do something wrong

  • Marie Claire is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.
  • Turns out it's not just because it makes them look cute

    Words by Trilby Beresford 

    So, you know that sad look your dog gives you when he or she chewed one of your favourite shoes or finished off your sandwich when you turned your back for five seconds? Well, science has  finally revealed why dogs actually make that adorably guilty face.

    According to molecular biologist Nathan H. Lents and his article in Psychology Today, dogs inherited this expression from another four-legged creature — the wolf.

    He notes that this particular look is called an ‘apology bow’ and it’s an inherited behaviour. Further proof that our canine companion is rather clever after all, proving that even though is the smartest dog breed they’re all pretty intelligent creatures.  

    ‘In wolves, juveniles first begin to display the apology bow as they begin their social integration,’ Lents explains. ‘Besides nursing, the first social interaction that wolves engage in is play, usually rough-and-tumble wrestling. You’ve probably seen dogs wrestle and they have inherited this play behaviour from their wolf ancestors.’

    If you’ve witnessed a full-on apology bow, it’s pretty hard to continue punishing your dog as they gaze up at you with their innocent looking puppy dog eyes. 

    Lents goes on to explain how this learned behaviour has become their default action for when they’ve done something wrong.

    ‘Dogs have inherited this behaviour and they will use it after any kind of infraction that results in being punished. As social animals, they crave harmonious integration in the group and neglect or isolation is painful for them.’

    He also points out that there are similarities between the apology bow and the submissive posture that wolves make toward a higher ranking animal; the tail goes in-between the legs, and they hang their head while avoiding eye contact.

    And just like human behaviour, there are differences depending on the situation and personality of the canine.

    From the Editors of HelloGiggles 

    Latest Black Friday Deals

    Reading now