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!