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Shame game

2/27/2014

There sits Fido, his long eyes looking sorrowful, his head slumped showing guilt and shame for his actions of tearing up the new furniture.

That's what many people think when they see their pooch reacting to a scolding for misbehavior.

Or, at least that's what we tend to believe, according to behaviorists.

The truth: Those same behaviorists don't think we know what dogs are thinking, we're only trying to decipher what we want them to be expressing toward certain situations.

In a recent Associated Press article, the popular pooch-pouting site dogshaming.com was looked at to help solve the conundrum of what dogs might be thinking when their owners have them pose with shameful signs talking about their devious actions.

But, are the dogs really shameful?

"I don't think dogs actually feel shame," said Pascale Lemire, who started the site in August 2012. "I think they know how to placate us with this sad puppy-dog look that makes us think they're ashamed of what they've done. My guess is that their thinking is: 'Oh man, my owner is super mad about something, but I don't know what, but he seems to calm down when I give him the sad face, so let's try that again.' "

It appears the canines are pulling another fast one on us, perhaps.

In fact, they could care less what they look like on the Internet posing next to a sign scribbled by their owner.

"People come for a laugh and camaraderie," Lemire said. "They see that their dog isn't the only one who does awful things. People don't shame their dogs out of anger, they do it out of love."

Dogs long have been considered man's best friend. They'll stick by a loyal owner through thick and thin. And they've been used for many useful purposes, such as security devices at airports and beyond.

But the fact behaviorists believe dogs feel no shame at any time remains open for some to debate.

Or, it's all in good fun -- allowing dog owners to find a silver lining in a bad situation.

For that, there's no shame at all.

Editorial by Nick Schwien

nschwien@dailynews.net

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