Can dogs tell when you apologize? A Comprehensive Guide

The Very Basic Concern

The other day I was working from home, completely swamped with projects, and I was super stressed out. Meanwhile, my dog had decided it was the perfect time to bark at the front door for five straight hours. The frustration with work and the barking eventually got to me, so I stormed into the front room, shouted at my dog to stop barking and put him in another room for a short time-out.

Naturally, I felt terrible a couple minutes later, especially after hearing him whine to be let out, so I did what any good dog owner would: I let him out, apologized profusely and gave him belly rubs until my arms were sore. Thing is, I figure he has no idea what an apology is, so I have no way of knowing whether he forgives me.

Basically: Do dogs understand when their owners apologize?

When the researcher accidentally drops the treat

When the human researcher “accidentally” drops the second of the treats shes been feeding the dog, the dog hesitates only a second before rushing around the glass partition to retrieve the dropped food.

Other times, however, the experimenter showed the dog the treats through the gap in the glass partition and then deliberately withdrew them, intentionally placing the food on the floor next to her seat.

Every single time the dog failed to get food, no matter why the treat was withheld, the dog could simply walk around the side of the partition and gobble up the easily seen treats. But whether they did this, and how quickly, seemed to depend on whether the person appeared to have denied the dog the treats either “accidentally” or on purpose.

Dogs approached the food on the floor quickly when the experimenter failed to give it to them “by accident.” But when the experimenter had deliberately withheld the treats, the dogs seemed more hesitant. They waited longer before going around the partition to try to eat it.

Some dogs didnt even try to get food that was intentionally withheld. Instead, they simply sat down. That was an unexpected behavior, says Bräuer, who imagines that the dogs were maybe thinking something along the lines of: “I am being a good dog, and maybe then she will give me the food that she obviously doesnt want to give me at the moment.”

Do dogs forgive you when you accidentally hurt them?

When you accidentally bump into your dog, they can most likely tell that it was not directed at them. Should this happen frequently, he will get more careful when you move around and try to get out of your way sooner, but chances are, he will “forgive” you.

How Dogs Apologize to Their Humans?

There have been many different studies about the behavior of dogs, many of which have come about from human insistence in projecting our own emotions onto our pets. Much of the research has been into whether dogs feel guilt and shame; so far, the general consensus is that we don’t really know.

But despite the scientific research being inconclusive, many dog owners believe that their dogs can and do say sorry to them when they have been bad.

I don’t believe that dogs can apologize, and I will explain why. But I do think that dogs are able to learn from the way react, knowing certain behaviors and actions can elicit certain responses – and some of those will be reflected in their body language, expressions, and eyes.

And because of this, it’s no wonder that dog owners think that dogs can say sorry.