Can You Explain How a Dog Says They’re Sorry? How Do Dogs Express Regret to People?

As a dog owner, you probably know that when your pup is left alone at home, he or she will become bored and look for ways to pass the time.

You may get home to find your dog sulking in a corner and a trail of chewed-up shoes and pillows across the floor.

When left alone, they engage in all kinds of misbehavior, including as taking food from the cupboards and refrigerator, chewing shoes, and using the facilities, but do they ever apologize?

Just how do canines express their regret?

Dogs apologize by gestures such as waving their tail, dropping their ears, opening their eyes wide, breathing more shallowly, rubbing their face on their paw, and so on. Most of the time, this is a dog’s method of admitting guilt without really apologizing.

Many dog owners believe their canine companions can “say sorry,” but it’s unclear whether or not their pets really understand the concept.

Scientists from City College of New York determined that the tail-between-the-legs posture often adopted by dogs when they realize they’ve done something wrong is really meant as an apologetic bow.

CUNY biologists have observed that disobedient dogs may drop their heads and tuck their tails in an effort to seem submissive. This is a socially intelligent behavior that dogs likely learned from wolves.

If you think your dog seems guilty, it’s because you’re reading your own emotions into the dog’s body language. But the truth is that they are responding to how you responded.

Is It Possible for Dogs to Recognize Their Own Misdeeds?

If you’re a dog owner who takes the time to teach your puppy, you know that they can pick up on the behaviors we consider appropriate.

Canine psychologist Alexandra Horowitz of Columbia University’s Dog Cognition Lab found in a 2009 research that dogs’ behavior in front of their owners after doing a mischievous deed is a taught behavior of acceptance to their owners’ furious faces.

Dog owners often misinterpret their dog’s response to their own anger or displeasure as remorse when, in fact, the dog is just reacting to the owners’ feelings.

You may be wondering why they cover their tracks or try to escape before you catch them in the act of being naughty. This is due to their extraordinary intelligence and their ability to learn the connections between events and human reactions.

If your dog knows that you become angry whenever shoes are eaten, he or she may hide before you ever realize what happened.

You may be wondering why they would do that if they know the owners would be angry. This is because canines lack the cognitive capacity to make the necessary causal links between the behavior and the negative consequences.

The use of positive reinforcement techniques with your pet is recommended as well. Never reprimand your dog for excellent behavior; instead, praise it.

What Dogs Do That We Can Learn From Thanks to Science

Dogs have excellent emotional intelligence and are able to mimic human behavior. Even if it’s not always the case, studies have shown that people like to choose pets that resemble themselves. For example, it’s been shown that an overweight owner is more likely to have a similarly sized dog.

When dogs watch their humans, they learn what works and what doesn’t. Likewise, their feelings and expressions on their faces are in harmony. When a person and dog have a close relationship, the dog is more likely to mimic his or her emotions.

If your dog is good, he or she will get a pat on the head and a belly massage. Also, he gradually learns to behave himself in the kitchen so as not to interrupt you when you’re preparing food. Your pet makes advantage of his or her sensitivity to your feelings by picking up on your preferences.


Thank you for reading, and we hope this explanation of dogs’ apologies has been helpful. We have further tried to describe how they might determine whether they have acted inappropriately. Read the section under “Science Behind Dogs Behavior Like Humans” if you’ve ever wondered whether your dog is an animal replica of you.