Denver, the guilty dog


Now what is that if not a cute Labrador showing signs of guilt, because she ate something she was not supposed to?

This video has become a meme and spread throughout the internet like wildfire. This one copy only has – so far – generated 6 million views and there are several other instances of it adding hundreds of thousands of views. 

The owners of Denver, the guilty dog, didn’t hesitate to make a Facebook page and create a website and start selling t-shirts of Denver to fulfill the many requests they have apparently received. Part of the money goes to charity, as the website says. 

Denver’s performance really is cute and she deserves to be the star of the month just for pulling that adorable grin

On the other hand, according to a 2009 Science Daily article Alexandra Horowitz, Assistant Professor from Barnard College in New York, uncovered the origins of the “guilty look” in dogs.

During the study, owners were asked to leave the room after ordering their dogs not to eat a tasty treat. While the owner was away, Horowitz gave some of the dogs this forbidden treat before asking the owners back into the room. Some of the owners were told that their dog had eaten the forbidden treat, others were told their dog had behaved properly and left the treat alone. However, what the owners were told, wasn’t always true. 

Whether the dogs’ behavior included elements of the “guilty look” had little to do with whether the dogs had actually eaten the forbidden treat or not. Dogs looked most “guilty” if they were told off by their owners for eating the treat (even if they hadn’t). In fact, dogs that had been obedient and had not eaten the treat, but were scolded by their (misinformed) owners, looked more “guilty” than those that had, in fact, eaten the treat. Thus the dog’s guilty look is a response to the owner’s behavior, and not necessarily indicative of any appreciation of its own misdeeds. 

In other words, if a dog gets told off he will look guilty regardless of whether ha has done anything wrong.

Whether this is what happened in Denver’s case or she really did recognize the empty bag of treats and that’s why she looked guilty is not for us decide, I’d love to hear your opinion on this story and the study conducted by Alexandra Horowitz! 


Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 7 comments
LARRY - April 1, 2011

Both dogs in the video appear to be extremely “cowed,” and I (also) noticed that neither dog appears to be happy, just intimidated. I also noticed that “Denver” slinked away sadly – and “obediently” – when ordered to do so. This looks very much like a conditioned response. None of this appears to be “cute,” but rather sad. I (We) truly hope these dogs are not being mistreated, abused or exploited — under the guise of ‘charities’ — for financial gain. That would make the owners, Guilty.

Louie - April 1, 2011

The study makes perfect sense. Denver (and maybe the other dog as well) looks abused, maybe not physically, but certainly psychologically. The owner should do himself, the dogs and everybody a big favor and take cyanide.

Louie - April 1, 2011

I hadn’t realized you guys are breeders of all types of dogs. That’s disgusting, with all the poor dogs who are killed every day everywhere and who would be excellent pets. What you’re doing is despicable.

LARRY - April 2, 2011

“Denver” may NOT, in fact, have done ANYTHING wrong at all! The “bite,” out of the cat treats bag, looks FAKE and Setup – YET BOTH dogs are CLEARLY INTIMIDATED by the owner. Their video is NOT “CUTE” or “FUNNY,” and God knows if these animals have been abused (off-camera) to their emotional and psychological (and physical?) detriment?! While the owners MARKET and SELL “Guilty/Denver” paraphernalia; the apparent self-serving (mis)treatment of “Denver” is, frankly, just plain SAD.

Anonymous - April 3, 2011

I of course do not know the circumstances surrounding Denver. However you can definately NOT assume from this video that she is abused. My father has had three dogs over the past 20 years, and the second one he had did this exact same thing when he did something obviously wrong (like getting into the trash). I lived with my father the whole time he had the dog and can tell you for absolutely sure that the dog was never abused. He was treated like a prince. His worst punishment was having to lay on his bed for 10-15 minutes… yet he’d cowar, duck his head, close his eyes, etc. whenever he was caught doing something wrong. It looked soooo sad, just like this video! My dad’s other dogs never did anything like this; they couldn’t care less if they got caught. I don’t know if it is breed dependent, or personality dependent, or what…? Dogs are so unique, just like people!

LARRY - April 3, 2011

It’s good to hear when people are good to their pets, without a doubt. I have been a pet owner for many years, and each of us has our own perception of what we observe in the video. In my opinion: “Denver” is CLEARLY INTIMIDATED, while being scolded (backed into a corner), by the owner. None of this is “cute,” or “funny.” I question what type of treatment or “conditioning” led to her terribly SAD demeanor – for the sake of the cameras – which obviously differs from a dog that is truly happy…

Anonymous - April 12, 2011

obviously, the people with negative comments about this hilarious video do not own a dog, or any animal for that matter. I for one who have two yellow lab babies,who,if you must know are spoiled more than my own kids,(Oh I guess you now think my kids are being abused,due to that comment,OH Please!) ,can tell you Denvers response to his owner questioning him,is a natural lab response,especially if it involved eating something he shouldn,t have had. If you look a little more closely, you can see both dogs are very healthy looking,and also up in age,(notice the white around both dogs faces.) If these animals were being emotionally abused, Im sure their fist response to the owners voice would be to run and hide.


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