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Thread: Do dogs understand when you apologize?

  1. #1
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    Do dogs understand when you apologize?

    I've always wondered if dogs understand when you say, "Oh, I'm sorry!" For instance, after you've stepped on their foot or something. What do you think? And what should your response be if you accidentally hurt them?
    "Red meat is not bad for you. Now blue-green meat, that's bad for you."
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  2. #2
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    My guess? They understand your tone of voice is friendly and would better understand a little scratch but if you said the words "I'm sorry" in an unfriendly tone probably not.


    "Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself" ~ George Bernard Shaw


  3. #3
    They seem to be able to know when something is an accident. They don't seem to need an apology.
    newcook

  4. #4
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    They don't hold a grudge.
    Except for conditioned response, most house animals have a 10 minute memory (if what I have read is correct).
    Thoreau said, 'A man is rich in proportion to the things he can leave alone.'

  5. #5
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    I'm glad you asked that. I was once taking off my friend Bitters' leash (on a cement floor, no less) and accidentally stepped on her tail. Of course she let out a screech and I felt horrible. I instinctively dropped down and hugged her and rubbed her head, apologizing profusely.
    I got about 98 nose-kisses and tail-wags in return, so I took it that she knew I hadn't intended to hurt her. In whatever doggie way that's processed
    Happiness is not a goal, it is a byproduct. - Eleanor Roosevelt

  6. #6
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    I think the tone of your voice apologizing, followed up by some extra pats & scratches lets them know it was a mistake. When my dogs play together occasionally an ear or something gets accidentally bit, one squeals and then it's all love and goodness as they let each other know it was friendly fire, so to speak. Likewise if I'm playing with them and holler OW because I accidentally catch a fang, they back right off and start licking - their way of saying SORRY!

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Peweh View Post
    I think the tone of your voice apologizing, followed up by some extra pats & scratches lets them know it was a mistake. When my dogs play together occasionally an ear or something gets accidentally bit, one squeals and then it's all love and goodness as they let each other know it was friendly fire, so to speak. Likewise if I'm playing with them and holler OW because I accidentally catch a fang, they back right off and start licking - their way of saying SORRY!
    That is a really great description of how it goes here as well.
    newcook

  8. #8
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    I've found that any apology followed by a treat goes over quite well.
    Erin

    "Eating peanut butter is a sacred act, not to be defiled by pork or its substitutes."

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  9. #9
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    We call that "Mommy voice" in our house :-) The super sweet I love you, I'm so sorry tone with lots of head scratching.

    But, I also think it depends on the dog. Some dogs are 'softer' and much more sensitive to things like yelling, sweet tones, etc. Other dogs don't react to big swings in emotion so much.

    I love the way Peweh described it. When we watch our dog play with his cousin, they are just like that. It's so fun to watch!

    I've also heard a lot lately about dog behaviorists who believe humans simply project our own thoughts & emotions on our dogs. That may be true to some degree. But I am a big believer in humans & dogs having kindred spirits & an ability to communicate quite deeply.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Canice View Post
    I'm glad you asked that. I was once taking off my friend Bitters' leash (on a cement floor, no less) and accidentally stepped on her tail. Of course she let out a screech and I felt horrible. I instinctively dropped down and hugged her and rubbed her head, apologizing profusely.
    I got about 98 nose-kisses and tail-wags in return, so I took it that she knew I hadn't intended to hurt her. In whatever doggie way that's processed
    I agree with Canice. Similar scenario has happened at my house with our two puppies. They both like to hang out around our feet, and careful as we try to be, we still catch a paw here and there. We even put bells on them so we can hear them. When we do accidently clip a paw, we hug them, use a soothing tone of voice and some gentle petting and they seem to get the message it was an accident. And, like Canice's friend Bitters, Cocoa and Shadoe respond with kisses and tail wags, and it is all better.

    I believe they (dog in general) can sense emotion, mood, energy, or whatever you want to call it, and respond accordingly.
    ________
    Colleen

  11. #11
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    Thanks for the insight, everyone. I've always felt they understood in some way or another.
    "Red meat is not bad for you. Now blue-green meat, that's bad for you."
    ~Tommy Smothers

  12. #12
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    My thoughts - when something happens that you are sorry for, such as stepping on their tail, I imagine what you are doing is getting down on their level, saying "I'm sorry" in a loving motherly voice and giving them affection. By doing that, your energy is showing that you're calm and loving, which indicates to the dog that your action wasn't intentional.

    As far as whether or not they understand the phrase "I'm sorry", I would definitely say not initially. Over time though, some dogs (because some aren't as intelligent as others) would associate that phrase with that behavior. My dog is pretty dag gone smart and has learned not only certain words, but phrases as well. For example, over time, my dog has figured out that the phrase "one more time" means just that. She figured out that while playing fetch if my husband said that and she took the item back to him, that he wouldn't throw it again, but would walk back to the house. Now when my husband throws her ball or frisbee for her, when he makes that statement before throwing the last one, she will get the item, but won't take it back to him, but goes back to the house and waits for him to get there.

  13. #13
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    On a related note, in this weeks newsletter from Cesar Millan, there is an interesting article about canine emotions.

    http://www.cesarsway.com/tips/thebas...n=FebruaryNL_1

    The Science of Canine EmotionsAre you convinced your dog laughs? Or maybe you think he feels ashamed when you discover that he's peed on the carpet? Find out if you're right – or just humanizing your dog! Learn the science behind your dog's feelings.

    Laughter
    Have you ever heard your dog's panting during play and thought it sounded like a chuckle? Turns out, you might be right! Researcher Patricia Simonet from Sierra Nevada College discovered that certain breathy, excited exhalations could be the canine version of laughter. Her team brought a parabolic microphone to a park and, from a distance, recorded the sounds that dogs made while playing. They discovered a special exhalation that was different from normal panting. Later, the team played the sound for other dogs who started to play after hearing the "laugh." They also discovered that it helped to calm shelter dogs who were under stress.

    Shame
    When you come home and find out your dog got into the trash again, you may find comfort in the fact that your dog "knows he is wrong" because he hides from you in shame. Unfortunately, canines don't make these kinds of rational connections. Instead, your dog is picking up on the change in your chemistry and body language and reacting to that. He knows you're upset, but he doesn't know why.

    Jealousy
    A researcher at the University of Vienna in Austria named Friederike Range discovered that dogs do have a sense of "fair play." Her team began with a group of dogs who already knew the command to "shake" and would give their paw whether they received a treat or not. However, if they saw that another dog received a piece of food for the behavior while they did not, they stopped! Dogs are not the only ones who are insulted when they aren't treated fairly. A similar experiment found that monkeys also become jealous if their peers were rewarded and they weren't. It is likely these behaviors resulted because both animals live in cooperative societies.

    Grief
    Dogs don't grieve in the same way that humans do, but they do experience sadness when a pack member passes away. If your family experiences a loss, your dog may react by displaying signs of distress: loss of appetite, fear, depression, sleeping too much or too little, and anxiety. In 1996, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals conducted a Companion Animal Mourning Project which found that 66% of dogs exhibited four or more behavioral changes after losing a pet companion. Give your pet time to cope with the loss. The study found that most dogs returned to normal after two weeks but some took as long as six months. You can help by maintaining their routine and going through your own grief. Your dog will have trouble moving on if you are unable to. If you are afraid these symptoms may be the result of illness, take your dog to the vet to make sure.

    Joy
    Anyone who has watched a dog play knows that our canine companions experience joy! The famous naturalist Charles Darwin noted that "under the expectation of any great pleasure, dogs bound and jump about in an extravagant manner, and bark for joy." Play helps animals to build social bonds, build trust, and learn to cooperate which can better their chances of survival. It also hones cognitive skills and helps in hunting and mating.
    ________
    Colleen

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