Do Dogs Feel Guilt?

By: Mother Nature Network (

If you’ve ever had a dog, you know the signature canine guilty look: ears back, head cowered, tail tucked.GuiltyDog

Seventy-four percent of dog owners believe their dogs experience guilt, but animal behaviorists say dogs lack the ability to feel shame. They say that guilty look is simply a reaction to you.

While there’s plenty of evidence that man’s best friend experiences primary emotions, such as fear and happiness, there’s little evidence that dogs feel secondary emotions like pride, jealousy and guilt.

Scientists say this is because secondary emotions require self-awareness and a level of cognition that dogs may not have.

Alexandra Horowitz, a psychology professor and principal investigator at the Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab at Columbia University, conducted one of the first studies on dog “guilt” in 2009.

She videotaped 14 dogs in a series of trials and observed how they reacted when their owners left the room after instructing them not to eat a treat. While the owner was gone, Horowitz gave some of the dogs the forbidden treat before asking the owners back in.

In some cases the owners were told their dog had eaten the treat, but in others, they were told their dog had behaved. However, Horowitz wasn’t always honest with them.

Horowitz found that the dogs’ guilty looks had little to do with whether they’d eaten the treat or not. In fact, dogs that hadn’t eaten it but were scolded by misinformed owners tended to exhibit the most elements of the “guilty look.”

Horowitz says this shows that the dogs’ body language is actually a response to their owner’s behavior – not an experience of shame for a misdeed.

“The ‘guilty look’ would be better called the ‘submissive look,’ as in, ‘Don’t punish me for whatever it is you think I did,'” Horowitz wrote in The Washington Post.

Why then, do dogs look so ashamed when we scold them?

That look of guilt is likely the result of a learned association. When you scold your dog for chewing a pair of slippers or leaving a mess on the carpet, he quickly learns that if he lowers his head and tucks his tail, the undesirable response – raised voice and angry expression – is more likely to cease.

Almost 60 percent of dog owners claim that their dogs’ guilty behavior leads them to scold their dog less, according to a study by Universities Federation for Animal Welfare.

Still, scientific findings haven’t deterred the popularity of websites like where dog owners submit photos of their disorderly dogs with humorous confessions.

“I don’t think dogs actually feel shame,” Pascale Lemire, creator of the website, told The Associated Press. “I think they know how to placate us with this sad puppy-dog look that makes us think they’re ashamed of what they’ve done.

“My guess is that their thinking is: ‘Oh man, my owner is super mad about something, but I don’t know what, but he seems to calm down when I give him the sad face, so let’s try that again.'”


Full article here.

Easter Basket Ideas For Your Pet

By: Ellen Vossekuil, Yahoo Contributor Network

Many pets get birthday presents and Christmas stockings, so why not celebrate the season with an Easter basket? Obviously chocolate is off the list for treats, but you can put together a fun, cute, and creative Easter basket for your pet without spending a ton of money on
commercial toys.Pet Easter basket

Think non-traditional with your pet’s Easter “basket”. A new food bowl or pet bed can be used to hold Easter goodies. You can even use a cardboard box and allow your pet to destroy the “basket” after all the treats are gone. Word of caution: stay away from plastic grass for your pet. If ingested it can cause intestinal blockages. Use shredded paper instead.

Homemade Dog Cookies
There are a ton of recipes out there for homemade dog treats. Find some Easter-themed cookie cutters at the dollar store, and your dog can enjoy chick-, bunny-, and egg-shaped cookies while you snack on chocolate.

Plastic Egg Toys
Those plastic eggs you use to hide candy for your kids can also be used to entertain you pets on Easter. Place some catnip in an egg and watch your cat go crazy! You can also put in a small amount of uncooked rice to add some sound effects as the egg gets batted around the house.

Stuffed Animals
The same stuffed bunny or chick you might get for your child can also be a great gift for your pet. Just make sure it is a good quality product with no small parts that your pet could choke on. Who doesn’t love a good squeaky rabbit or a catnip-filled chick on Easter?

Hard-Boiled Eggs or Carrots
Some Easter people-foods are safe for pets to enjoy. Dogs love hard-boiled eggs. If you use non-toxic egg dye, your dog can enjoy an Easter egg or two along with the family. Add some whole carrots for visual interest, or even sneak your dog a piece of ham! Just don’t share the chocolate bunny with your furry friend.

Bunny Ears
If your dog or cat will tolerate it, get a set of bunny ears for your pet. Get a good laugh and take some pictures!

Easter Baskets for Small Pets
Rats, hamsters and guinea pigs will also enjoy an Easter basket! Fill a basket or container with shredded paper (avoid plastic grass) and bury treats for them to search for. Rats are smart and dextrous enough to open plastic eggs with treats inside. The baskets may even become a preferred nesting spot!


Real the full article here.

Tips to Take Better Dog Pics

Taking pictures of your best friend is not always easy. Unlike humans, pets won’t simply pose for a picture. Here are tips that can help you get the most out of your photo session:

Pay attention to the background. A cluttered environment will take focus away from the dog. Use colorful, yet simple, backgrounds, such as bushes or blankets.

Kneel or sit on the ground. Position yourself so you are on the dog’s level and not looking down.

Use food. Try giving the dog a few tasty treats, then tap one on the top of the camera as you are about ready to snap the shot. This should capture his/her attention and get him/her to make eye contact with the lens.

Snap a photo while the dog is panting to capture his/her smile.

Avoid that “glowing green eyes” look. Do not use the flash; photograph the dog outside or set your camera to shoot in low-light situations.

Take lots of shots. One of them is bound to be a “keeper.”


Are You Prepared For A Natural Disaster?

As a pet owner, it is important to consider how you will care for your pet in the event of a natural disaster, emergency evacuation, extended power outage, etc.

Compiling an emergency preparedness kit for your pet will give you peace of mind, and could save your pet’s life in an emergency.

Suggested supplies to include in your kit:

  • 5 to 7 day supply of dry food stored in an airtight, waterproof container
  • 7 day supply of water
  • Prescription medications
  • Veterinary records including the name and phone number of your veterinarian
  • First Aid supplies
  • Blankets
  • Sturdy cage or crate
  • Extra leash & collar for security and safety
  • Yard stake with rope or long leash
  • Unbreakable water and food bowls
  • Waste clean up bags and paper toweling
  • Toys
  • Current photo and written description of your pet including special markings
  • Current rabies and license number
  • Current picture of you and your pet to prove ownership

Most of these items can be stashed in a clearly labeled plastic storage tote, stored in an easily accessible location. Remember to periodically freshen supplies and always update important medical information.

Do not underestimate the importance of having your pet with a microchip. In an emergency situation you and your pet could easily become separated. Most shelters and veterinary offices scan lost animals for a microchip as soon as they arrive.

Tips for Taking Your Scaredy Cat (or Dog) to the Vet

A lot of people get nervous when they have to go to the doctor. But imagine how much more terrifying a doctor visit would be if it meant traveling to an intimidating and unfamiliar setting to have an enormous stranger poke and prod at you for, seemingly, no good reason. Oh, and don’t forget that in the waiting room, other patients will be sniffing you, staring at you and possibly trying start fights with you. Now, perhaps, you can imagine why your otherwise placid dog or cat freaks out every time you get her carrier out to go to the vet!

Whether you’re taking your pet to see a veterinarian for the first time, or your pet has a history of bad or terrified behavior at the vet’s office, these tips should help ensure a smoother and less eventful visit.

Vet tips for both cats and dogs:

Make car trips fun and regular – Many animals, and especially cats, strongly dislike taking car trips – which, unfortunately, is generally how we have to take our pets to the vet! Car-avoidant pets might be scared to be in such an unfamiliar (and moving!) environment, they might get car sick, or they might associate car trips with unpleasant visits to the vet’s office.  To get your pet used to the car, use it to take them places other than the vet. For dogs, this might mean visits to the park or other places your dog likes to go. Although cats typically don’t like to “go” places, it’s good to take them in the car sometimes, even if it’s just to go to the taco shop drive-thru, so that they realize that not every car trip ends in a dreaded vet visit. Reward both dogs and cats with treats for good behavior in the car.

Make your pet carrier more comfortable – Your pet probably hates his carrier for the same reasons he dislikes the car: he’s not used to it, and/or he associates it with going to the vet. Change this by making the carrier a fixture in your home that your pet can enter, exit and hang out in as he pleases. Both at home and when taking your pooch or pussy-cat to the vet, place a towel or blanket, and some of your pet’s favorite toys in there to make the environment more comfortable and inviting.

Bring ‘em hungry – Don’t feed your pet in the few hours before taking them to the vet. If they have food in their tummy, they are more likely to get car-sick and/or throw up. Bringing your pet to the vet on an empty tummy will also make the reward of receiving their favorite treats – which you should give them in the waiting room to calm them down and as an incentive for good behavior – more effective. However, if you anticipate that your pet will receive X-rays of their bladder or digestive tract during this visit, you should wait to give them their treats until the visit is over, as any food in their belly might block the radiographer’s view of their internal organs.

Use calming chemicals – Dogs and cats create certain scents, or pheromones, to calm themselves and others. Thanks to modern science, you can buy products containing synthetic versions of these soothing pheromones to make your pet feel calmer during stressful events like a trip to the vet. There are both dog and cat versions of these products, which are typically administered as a liquid that you spray in the air or on fabrics/upholstery. About fifteen minutes before going to the vet’s office, simply spray a good amount of the pheromone product on the towel or blanket inside of the carrier you use to transport your furry friend, per the product’s instructions. If your pet has a history of especially severe anxiety or aggression at the vet, your veterinarian may also prescribe a short-acting anti-anxiety medication that you can give your dog or cat before bringing them in.

Do your research – As a pet owner, you are probably all too aware that trips to the vet can frazzle the owner’s nerves, too! If your pet is acting up, you may be too distracted to ask the vet pertinent questions and pay attention to what she tells you. Therefore, it’s important that you do some pre-appointment research and planning ahead of time so that you come prepared. Your first step of research, before you even make that appointment, is to find a vet with strong credentials and a good reputation. Your pet will probably have a much better reaction to a vet who knows what they’re doing and has a calming demeanor than compared to an inexperienced or inept vet. So, check the vet’s reputation on Yelp or a similar service. Next, research your pet’s condition online so you have a good idea of what to expect, including possible diagnoses, projected costs, and available treatment options. Finally, think of good questions to ask (e.g., questions about the benefits of one treatment over another, or how to administer medicine) and write them down before you go in.

Additional vet tips for cats:

Choose the right carrier – That is, a hard plastic carrier which has a top-loading option. These are much easier to get your kitty in and out of compared to side-loading carriers. Also, it’s especially important that you put a towel in your pet carrier if you have a cat – cats, of course, use their claws to grip onto things for balance, and if your cat doesn’t have anything that she can sink her claws into, she’ll feel a lot less secure in her carrier.

Let the vet do their thing – You may think that you’re helping out in the vet’s office by petting or holding your cat, but it’s generally best to let your vet or the vet’s technician do all the handling of your cat. Your touch may actually over-stimulate the cat and cause him to bite or scratch you. The people who work at your vet’s office are trained in handling scared kitties.

Additional vet tips for dogs:

Take them on a walk first – The exercise will put them in a calmer, more docile mood. Make sure that your pup relieves himself during his walk so that he’s less likely to have an accident at the vet’s office or – even worse – in the car.

Visit the vet for fun – In addition to regular check-ups, consider occasionally taking your dog into the vet just to visit and get a treat. Like regular car trips and exposure to their carrier, this will help your doggy associate a trip to the vet with normalcy – and if possibly even good times.
Read more here.

Springtime Safety Tips

With the change of season, our thoughts inevitably turn to Easter celebrations, spring cleaning and much-needed home improvement projects. But the new balmy weather can prove not-so-sunny for curious pets—or their unwitting parents. Before you embark on seasonal chores or outdoor fun, take inventory of potential springtime hazards for your delicate, furry friend. A few quick tips to help avoid problem….

  • Easter Treats and Decorations – Keep Easter lilies and chocolate bunnies in check—chocolate goodies are toxic to cats, dogs and ferrets, and lilies can be fatal if ingested by our furry friends. And be mindful, kitties love to nibble on colorful plastic grass, which can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting and dehydration. Moreover, while bunnies, chicks and other festive animals are adorable, resist the urge to buy—these cute babies grow up fast and often require specialized care and make less than desirable pets for those who do not have appropriate space or expertise for care!
  • Screen Yourself – Many pet parents welcome the breezy days of spring by opening their windows. Unfortunately, they also unknowingly put their pets at risk—especially cats, who are apt to jump or fall through unscreened windows. Be sure to install snug and sturdy screens in all of your windows. If you have adjustable screens, make sure they are tightly wedged into window frames.
  • Buckle Up! – While every pet parent knows dogs love to feel the wind on their furry faces, allowing them to ride in the bed of pick-up trucks or stick their heads out of moving-car windows is dangerous. Flying debris and insects can cause inner ear or eye injuries and lung infections, and abrupt stops or turns can cause major injury, or worse! Pets in cars should always be secured in a crate or wearing a seatbelt harness designed especially for them. An unsecured dog inside a vehicle or in the bed of a truck will become a missile in the event of an accident, definitely at risk for injury and/or death and may cause injury or death to anyone they come into contact with.  Many jurisdictions now have laws making it illegal to transport an unsecured pet in a vehicle.
  • Spring Cleaning – Spring cleaning is a time-honored tradition in many households, but be sure to keep all cleaners and chemicals out of your pets’ way! Almost all commercially sold cleaning products contain chemicals that are harmful to pets. The key to using them safely is to read and follow label directions for proper use and storage. And remember that a pet walking on a wet floor that has been cleaned with a chemical cleaner/bleach will invariably lick those feet, thus ingesting the chemical which will now become in ingested poison.
  • Spring Cleaning 2  – There is just something about spring that makes us want to “clean”.  When cleaning out the bathroom cabinets use care when disposing of old, outdated or left over medications.  Do not dispose of old medications in the garbage to prevent your dog from finding and ingesting them. Human cold, allergy and sinus medications, especially those containing pseudoephedrine, can be toxic to dogs. Prescription drugs and pain relievers, including acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil), can also be very toxic. According to Health Canada, it is best to return expired or unused medicine to a pharmacy for proper disposal.  They do not mind doing this.
  • Home Improvement 101– Products such as paints, mineral spirits and solvents can be toxic to your pets and cause severe irritation or chemical burns. Carefully read all labels to see if the product is safe to use around your furry friends. Also, be cautious of physical hazards, including nails, staples, insulation, blades and power tools. It may be wise to confine your dog or cat to a designated pet-friendly room during home improvement projects.
  • Let Your Garden Grow—With Care  – Pet parents, take care—fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides keep our plants and lawns healthy and green, but their ingredients aren’t meant for four-legged consumption and can be fatal if your pet ingests them.  Always store these poisonous products in out-of-the-way places and follow label instructions carefully. In our climate, slugs are a real problem and slug-bait is commonly used.  This product is highly toxic for dogs that seemed to really love the taste.
  • Poisonous Plants  – Time to let your garden grow! But beware, many popular springtime plants—including Easter lilies, rhododendron, daffodils, tulip bulbs, oleander, tomato vines, grapes, garlic, onions and azaleas—all are highly toxic to pets and can easily prove fatal if eaten.    Keep poisonous plants out of your home and yard or have measures in place to prevent Fido from gobbling them.
  • Ah-Ah-Achoo! – Like their sneezy human counterparts, pets can be allergic to foods, dust, plants and pollens. Allergic reactions in dogs and cats can cause minor sniffling and sneezing as well as life-threatening anaphylactic shock.
  • Pesky Little Critters – April showers bring May flowers—and an onslaught of bugs! Make sure your pet is on year-round flea and tick control program.
  • Out and About – Warmer weather means more trips to the park, longer walks and more chances for your pet to wander off.  Make sure your dog or cat has a microchip for identification and wears a tag imprinted with your address, cell number and any other relevant info.
  • Sick again? – With warmer weather and a renewed interest in outdoor activity comes more potential exposure to infectious agents (viruses, bacteria, parasites). More exposure to other pets (dog parks, walking trails, parks) means more likelihood of exposure to infectious disease.  Ensure that your pet has a current vaccination history to ensure adequate protection against common infectious disease.  When were your pets last vaccinated?

For the full article, click here.

8 Secrets Your Dog Won’t Tell You

By Lisa Spector

If dogs could talk, they would tell you these secrets in human language. But they have other ways of communicating these messages, if we are really listening and observing them.

1. I’d rather work for a8 Secrets Your Dog Won’t Tell You living than lie around all day with nothing to do. Give me a purpose, and I’ll be happy.

People enjoy doing work they love and getting well paid for it. Why wouldn’t dogs? People also love doing work that encourages them to learn. Dogs are no different. Better yet, turn work into play, and tails will be wagging!

2. I don’t like to be hugged. Why are you always putting your arms around me?

In human behavior, a hug is a sign of affection. I know it can be tempting to say, “I love you” to your dog with a hug. But, that’s not what it means to him. In dogs it represents social status and they can easily feel like they are being restrained. It’s an invasion of their space. Some dogs can tolerate hugs, but many can’t.

3. I don’t much care to be pet on my head either. Please don’t let strangers approach and pet my head.

Again, some dogs can tolerate this, but many can’t. A hand reaching over a dog’s head can feel very threatening from a stranger. Instead, reach under a dog to rub his chest. If it’s a dog you’ve never met, always ask for permission first and let him come to you to sniff you first.

4. Humans have created a crazy sound environment that I often find stressful. Please know that I hear sounds more than twice as high as you. I’m always trying to orient every sound to know if it’s safe or not.

Humans hear sounds between 20-20,000 Hz. Dogs hear at least twice as high, sometimes all the way up to 55,000 Hz. While I think it’s great that more events and public places are dog friendly, so often those environments are created for humans. A fundraising party for dogs and their people that benefits your local shelter, doesn’t benefit your dog when a loud band is playing. Please be careful what sounds you subject your dog to, and provide simple sounds at home that calm the canine nervous system.

5. Don’t correct me for growling. It could be my way of telling you that I feel threatened.

Dogs communicate with their growls. If it’s a play growl, think of it as your dog laughing. But, if it’s a growl that is communicating stress — showing teeth, fur raised, body tense — then it’s his way of saying, “I’m not comfortable right now. I’m feeling scared and threatened.” While you don’t want to ignore their growl, correcting it or scolding him for growling will only increase his fear. It’s a way of telling him not to express his fear and there is something to be afraid of. Next time, he may skip the growl and just bite.

6. It’s very confusing to me when you ask me to do something that I’m rewarded for one time and scolded for the same behavior another time.

You come home from work and your dog is so excited to see you. He jumps up on you and gets praise and attention. The next day, your neighbor knocks on the door, and your dog gets so excited and jumps on them and you yell at him. This can be very confusing to a dog.

7. I’m older now, and my nervous system is more sensitive than when I was in my younger years.

Like people, dog’s nervous systems are more sensitive as they mature. The same things that used to be interesting to them may now be annoying and stressful. Maybe they could handle loud, crowded environments as a youngster but in their senior years, they might prefer to stay home and watch the grass grow.

8. Even if you never listen to all of my secrets, I’ll still love you anyhow.

Read the rest of the article here.