Do Dogs Feel Guilty?

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Do Dogs Feel Guilty?Every time I see one of those dog shaming images with a guilty looking pup displaying their confession written on a sign hung around their neck, I wonder if any of those dogs really feel ashamed. Even though they may look or act remorseful, do dogs feel guilty?

What Do Researchers Say?

Most of the research on this subject suggests that dogs aren’t capable of having complex emotions like jealousy or guilt. It’s believed that when dogs act guilty, they’re usually responding to being scolded after they’ve done something wrong. Okay, I can easily accept that theory because I know how most dogs react when you raise your voice or use a stern tone with them, whether they’ve done something wrong or not. It’s also a common belief that dogs mostly live in the moment and don’t understand why they’re getting reprimanded for something, unless they’re caught in the act of the transgression.

…But Then There’s This Scenario

When I come home and Haley’s not standing at the door, ready to greet me with her wagging tail, I know something’s up! This happens on the rare occasions when I forget to move the kitchen trash can before leaving the house and Haley decides to have a field day redecorating the kitchen floor while rummaging through the can for tasty tidbits. I will find her lying in her bed with a guilty look on her face. You know the look: head lowered, ears back, pleading eyes and in Haley’s case, an ever so optimistic slowly wagging tail.

I have to admit, I have mildly scolded Haley a few times in the past for getting into the trash, but I haven’t done that for years because I realize now that it’s my fault for forgetting to move the trash can before leaving home. So, if she doesn’t feel guilt, as most researchers believe, why doesn’t she greet me at the door? If dogs live in the moment, wouldn’t she forget about her little party in the kitchen by the time I get home? She must know or feel that she’s done something wrong, because she won’t even look in the general direction of the trash can after I come home.

Here’s what I really wonder about. What’s she thinking or feeling during the time between her dirty deed and when I arrive back home? Does she look at the mess and think that sometimes I get upset when there’s trash on the floor? Does she lie on her bed for hours feeling bad about what she’s done or dreading the moment when I return home? I sure hope not! The fact that she doesn’t come to greet me means she’s feeling something and hasn’t forgotten what she’s done.

Dog Getting Into Trash

Remnants of the after-party party

Luckily, I don’t often forget to move the trash can when leaving the house and thankfully, Haley’s never eaten anything that made her sick but I’m glad that dogs don’t have opposable thumbs and the ability to create their own shaming signs and internet memes of us!

Despite the widely accepted theory that dogs don’t feel guilt, these two articles by Live Science and Scientific American suggest the verdict may still be out on whether dogs experience guilt or other complex emotions.


What do you think? Do dogs feel guilty when they’ve done something wrong? Do Dogs Feel Guilty?

Why You Should Celebrate National Pet Month!

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Why You Should Celebrate National Pet MonthI know, you’re probably rolling your eyes at the thought of another “National” something or other day or month, but this one is all about our best friends. Let’s face it, we all get lazy sometimes or settle into a routine with our pups, so the month of May is a perfect time to shake things up and celebrate National Pet Month!

What the Heck is National Pet Month?

National Pet Month is a holiday that was started in England to celebrate the benefits that pets bring to people’s lives. It’s celebrated during the month of April in the UK and during the month of May here in the US. Here are the four goals for celebrating this holiday.

  • Promote responsible pet ownership
  • Make people aware of the benefits of pets for people and people for pets
  • Increase public awareness of services available from professionals who work with animals
  • Raise awareness of the role, value and contribution to society of working companion animals

10 Ways to Celebrate National Pet Month

1. Adopt a Pet
Yep, this would be the ultimate way to celebrate! Head to your local shelter and see if your new best friend is waiting there for you.
2. Foster a Pet
If you’re not ready for a furever friend, consider fostering a dog or cat in need.
3. Volunteer
There are many ways to volunteer your time or talent to a local shelter or rescue. Maybe you can volunteer to work a few hours each week or offer your expertise to help train or take pictures of dogs to make them more likely to be adopted. You can also post images of adoptable dogs and cats on your own social media networks.
4. Donate
While doing your spring cleaning this month, gather any towels, blankets, pet toys, food or treats that you can donate to a local shelter. Of course, they also appreciate financial donations as well.
5. Recommend a Professional
If you love your vet, dog trainer, groomer, pet sitter, dog walker or any other pet professional, help spread the word about how fantastic they are.
6. Walk a Dog
Walking a shelter dog is a perfect opportunity to exercise while also helping a dog get some exercise, socialization and training. All of those things may help a shelter dog get adopted sooner. Some shelters even supply vests for the dogs to advertise they’re available for adoption.
7. Therapy Dog Training
If agility and fly ball don’t appeal to you, but you would like to do something more with your dog, think about taking a Canine Good Citizen certification class. As a therapy dog, your pup can help kids learn to read at your local library or bring some cheer to children or seniors at a local hospital or senior care facility.
8. Visit a Friend
Dogs love to get out of the house and perhaps you know a friend, relative or senior that would enjoy a visit from you and your cheerful canine.
9. Share the Joy
When someone stops to admire or pet your dog, share with them about how much unconditional love and joy your pet brings to your life and the many benefits of owning a pet.
10. Set an Example
Promote responsible pet ownership by training your dog and setting a good example of pet etiquette.

Our dogs give us their unconditional love and companionship, they make us laugh and lower our blood pressure, they keep us healthy by being motivational exercise partners and so much more. Our sweet pups do so much for us even though we sometimes get into a rut, skip a walk or get caught up in our busy lives. National Pet Month is a good reminder to keep things interesting for our dogs and to take some extra time to give something back, like trying some of these fun activities.

10 Fun Ways to Celebrate With Your Dog

1. Go Exploring
Take your dog for a walk or hike somewhere new and give them extra time to stop, sniff and explore all of the new scents.
2. Playtime With a Friend
Dog ParkVisit a dog park or arrange for a playdate with your pup’s favorite play buddies.
3. Make Some Treats
What dog wouldn’t want to hang out in the kitchen while you mix and bake his favorite ingredients into some tasty homemade treats?
4. Go Shopping
Visit your local pet store and allow your buddy to pick out a few toys or a bone.
5. Shop Online
Order a new, stylish collar or maybe upgrade that old, worn out bed with a new model. Plenty of beautiful handmade dog products can be found on Etsy.
6. Challenge Your Dog
Most dogs love a challenge, so teach your dog a new trick, set up an obstacle course in the back yard or play a game like Find It.
7. Plan a Day Trip
Visit a new park and explore some interesting trails or plan a trip to a beach or lake where your dog can swim and dig in the sand.
8. Try a New Activity
Try something completely different with your dog, like kayaking or canoeing or relax with a Reiki or Doga class.
Dog With Tennis Ball
9. Give a Massage
If your dog loves belly rubs, he’ll really enjoy getting a long, relaxing massage from you. Good news! It’s beneficial for you too because it helps reduce stress and anxiety.
10. Let Your Pup Decide
Whether it’s a hike, belly-rub or some playtime, you know best what your dog enjoys the most. Spend some quality time together, then head to the nearest Starbucks and treat your pup to a Puppuccino! :)

I don’t take most of these “National” holidays too seriously, but sometimes they can be a helpful reminder for us. Feel free to skip National Whiners Day and National Have a Bad Day Day, but do at least one thing this month to promote the benefits of pets and spend some quality time with your dog or cat. How do you plan on celebrating National Pet Month?

Using Corrections With Positive Reinforcement Dog Training

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Using Corrections With Positive Reinforcement Dog TrainingIn the world of positive reinforcement (reward-based) dog training, the term “correction” almost seems like a bad word. For many people, it conjures up images of old school trainers that use aversive, physical methods and tools to train and control their dogs. As a matter of fact, many dog training facilities that only use positive reinforcement (+R) techniques never mention anything about giving corrections because it’s often perceived as politically incorrect. But does that mean using any corrections with positive reinforcement training is taboo?

I’m a big believer in positive, reward-based training because it works so well when training dogs on desirable behaviors we want our dogs to repeat. But how do we deal with those undesirable behaviors we want to stop, like when a dog snatches a doughnut off the kitchen counter or grabs tissues out of the bathroom trash can? In those situations, certain types of corrections might be necessary.

A correction is something you do to stop unwanted behavior, but that doesn’t mean it has to be physical. I always cringe when I see someone hitting or alpha rolling their dog and forceful jerking or leash pops can cause some dogs to become leash aggressive. Those types of corrections can also break down the bond of trust between you and your pup. The type of corrections I use with Haley are subtle signals that let her know that I want her to stop whatever she’s doing. Here are some examples.

Using Corrections with Positive Reinforcement

  • Verbal “Uh-Ah” – This serves the same purpose as saying “No” but it’s more specific and only used with Haley so she doesn’t get confused when she hears “no” in other conversations.
  • Finger Snap – I snap my fingers to get Haley’s attention which makes her stop whatever she’s doing and look to me for direction.
  • Body Blocking – Physically stepping in front of Haley and blocking her from moving towards something she wants also makes her stop, sit and look at me for permission or direction.

All three of these corrections are non-physical techniques that can be used to stop a behavior without being threatening or undermining the bond of trust you have with your dog. They are technically corrections, but they’re not delivered with anger and they have nothing to do with trying to be dominant or an alpha dog over your pack. They’re more about getting your dog’s attention than anything else.

I often think of the parallels between raising kids and raising dogs. I think it would be impossible to raise well-adjusted kids if you only doled out rewards. Both kids and dogs need occasional discipline and corrections. Mothering dogs instinctually demonstrate this with their puppies long before they arrive in our homes.

Whether you believe in using corrections with positive reinforcement training or not, it’s always important to remember that every dog is different and there’s no one size fits all method of training. The best trainers consider the breed, personality, history and temperament of the individual dog and strive to be as close to the positive end of the training spectrum as possible.

To learn more about the science behind positive and negative reinforcement and punishment, check out this video on operant conditioning.

Also visit Victoria Stilwell’s website to learn more about positive reinforcement training techniques!

What are your thoughts about using corrections along with positive reinforcement dog training? Using Corrections with Positive Reinforcement Dog Training

A Dog’s Tongue

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A Dog's Tongue

Sweet, smiling, tasting, thirsty, tired, sneaky, yuk, yum, lick, kiss!
The purpose and personality of a dog’s tongue.

Butterfly Dog
Sweet kisses from a butterfly
Dog With Statue
Smiling at the stone-faced guy
Dog Licking Turkey Foot
Tasting a turkey foot at the store
Dog Drinking From Fountain
Thirsty tongue drinks some more
Dog With Long Tongue
Tired and hot, it stretches out flat
Dog Kissing Cat
Sneaky, it swipes a kiss from the cat
Dog With Sandy Face
Yuk, I’ve got a mouth full of sand
Dog Licking Chops
Yum, a treat when I learn a command
Dog Licking Snow
Licking my nose, it’s covered with snow
Grandma Dog
Kiss your grandma before you go!

When browsing through all of the pictures of Haley over the years, it’s always her kooky tongue pictures that make me laugh the most. Sometimes it seems like a dog’s tongue has a life of its own. Even though it’s one of my favorite features about Haley, she didn’t feel quite the same way about the human-like, gummy tongues we had around Halloween time last year. 😜

What’s your favorite feature about your dog? A Dog's Tongue

12 Self-Help Tips for Dogs with Allergies

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12 Self-Help Tips for Dogs With AllergiesIt’s surprising how many dog owners think that excessive licking and scratching is normal for dogs, but more often than not, allergies are the cause of all that itching and discomfort. In last week’s post, I talked about the drug Apoquel and how it’s helped Haley with her allergies, but there are also practical and natural ways to treat allergies before resorting to using a prescription drug. Find out below if your pup might be suffering from allergies, then check out the self-help section for tips for dogs with allergies.

How Can You Tell If Your Dog Has Allergies?

Allergies can start at any age with the classic symptoms of itching, scratching, licking, rubbing and rolling. Does your dog have any of the symptoms below?

  • Ears– Scratching the ears, warm or red ears and recurring ear infections
  • Paws – Licking, biting or chewing the paws and red stained fur
  • Belly or Genitals – Excessive licking, hair loss and red stained skin
  • Face – Rubbing the face and chin, red eyes, discharge from eyes or nose and sneezing
  • Skin – Scratching of armpits, redness or hot spots, hair loss, red stained skin, thickened or greasy skin and unpleasant odor.
  • Tail/Rear End – Biting, licking and butt scooting
  • Digestive System – Gas, vomiting and diarrhea
*Secondary yeast or bacterial infections can also be present due to excessive scratching.

What’s Causing My Dog’s Allergic Reaction?

These are the four main types of allergies in dogs, with atopy and flea allergies being the most common.

Atopy or Inhalant Allergy – These environmental allergens are inhaled through the nose. Common allergens are pollen, trees, grass, weeds, dust, dust mites, mold, dander, feathers and household inhalants (cigarette smoke, perfume, cleaners, etc.)
Flea Allergy – Many dogs are allergic to fleas and it’s actually the flea saliva that causes the reaction.
Food Allergy – Dogs can be allergic to certain foods or proteins in food. Some vets and nutritionists believe food allergies may be caused by feeding your dog the same food for months or years.
Contact Allergy – These are allergies caused by direct contact with your dog’s skin. Common contact allergies are various drugs, cleaning or grooming products, fabrics, plastic and rubber.

It can be difficult to uncover the exact cause of a dog’s allergy, but here are a few clues that might help. Normally, if the digestive system is involved (gas, vomiting or diarrhea), look at food sources first. If your dog’s biting around his tail end, check for fleas first. If your dog only has symptoms during part of the year, it could be a type of seasonal pollen. For year-round itching and scratching, it’s probably something inside the house, like dust or dust mites. Your vet can help you narrow down the offending allergens through intradermal skin tests and other diagnostics.

For most dogs with allergies, the goal is to keep them under the threshold of scratching or licking excessively or feeling miserable. These tips may help manage your dog’s symptoms and keep him under the threshold.

12 Self-Help Tips for Dogs With Allergies

1. Control Fleas
Since fleas are a common allergen for dogs, make sure to check your dog regularly with a flea comb to make sure they’re flea free and treat any infestation quickly if you find any of the nasty critters.
2. Clean Your Dog’s Bedding
Vacuum your dog’s bedding or wash it in hot water with a natural detergent once a week to control dust and kill dust mites. Also, consider removing any stuffed toys or wash them weekly along with the bedding.
3. Keep a Clean House
Vacuum regularly and try to eliminate as much dust as possible in household furnishings. If you’re considering ripping up your dust-filled carpet and installing hardwood floors, this is a great reason to forge ahead!
4. Clear the Air
Contaminants in the air can cause allergy and respiratory problems for you and your dog. Hey, if you’re a smoker, here’s another good reason to quit. Choose HEPA or allergy-type furnace filters and be sure to change them on a regular basis. In the summer, run the air conditioner instead of opening windows on days when the pollen count is high.
5. Use Natural Cleaning Products
Ditch those harsh chemical cleaners for natural versions, like vinegar or lemon-based products.
6. Wipe Down Your Dog
You’ll want to limit the amount of time your dog’s outdoors when the pollen count is high or if the lawn has been freshly mowed. When your dog comes back inside, wipe down his coat and paws with a wet cloth to remove any allergens and to prevent them from being tracked around the house. You could also have your dog wear booties while outside.
7. Give Regular Baths
Yep, your dog’s probably not going to like this one, but weekly, cool water baths with a soothing shampoo can help ease itching and heal your pup’s skin. Natural, anti-itch sprays or gels can also be very effective in soothing skin issues. I’ve heard both positive and negative opinions about using oatmeal-based products. Oatmeal is soothing but I’ve also heard it can contribute to yeast growth on the skin. Check with your vet for a recommendation that’s best for your dog.
8. Toss the Plastic Bowls
Plastic has tiny cracks that can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Even if your dog doesn’t has issues with facial hot spots or rashes, it’s better to ditch the plastic versions for glass, stainless steel or ceramic bowls. No matter what type of bowls you use, be sure to wash them regularly.
9. Try Epsom Salt Soaks
To soothe your dog’s paws, dissolve some Epsom Salt in warm water and soak his paws for 5-10 minutes. Just be sure not to let him drink the water.
10. Evaluate Your Dog’s Diet
If you think your dog may be allergic to food, talk to your vet about starting an elimination diet to try to narrow down the source of the allergy. Also, many holistic vets and nutritionists believe a raw diet or at least a diet made from fresh, human grade food is key to successfully treating allergies, so it’s worth investigating that option as well.
11. Supplement with Supplements
Talk to your vet about adding supplements such as Omega 3 fatty acids, biotin or probiotics to your dog’s diet to help boost his immune system.
12. Use an Antihistamine
Most dogs get relief from an antihistamine like Benadryl or a natural antihistamine-like supplement like Quercetin. Check with your vet for a recommendation and the correct dosage.

Dog Standing on StumpI’ve tried most of these self-help strategies for Haley and they’ve worked pretty well in the past, but as some dogs get older, their allergy symptoms get worse and they may need medications or alternative treatments. That’s where we are with Haley and Apoquel right now, but I’m constantly evaluating new ways to manage her allergies.

So many people and dogs suffer with allergies. Maybe one day soon, researchers will discover the key to fixing this immune system response and allergy symptoms will be a thing of the past. Until then, if you have any tips for dogs with allergies, share them with us and leave a comment below!


12 Self-Help Tips for Dogs With Allergies