Can Dogs Feel Humiliation?

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Introduction

Feeling humiliated and embarrassed is a normal part of human life. More often than not, we do things that make us feel self-conscious and we beat ourselves up about it. Humiliation creeps in and we may even think about it for weeks or months after it happens. 

We know that dogs can feel many human-like emotions, so can dogs feel humiliation and embarrassment as well? In short, many scientists do believe that dogs and other animals can feel humiliation in certain ways, but it is likely they don't feel humiliated in the same exact way we do.

Have you ever witnessed your dog slip and fall on some ice and then get up quickly and look around them? Do they run away quickly and hang their heads? If you have witnessed this reaction before, it is likely due to humiliation and embarrassment. 

Signs of a Dog Feeling Humiliation

Since it is likely that dogs do feel some form of humiliation, they are going to show certain signs they feel this way through their reactions and body language. As we mentioned above, if your dog slips and falls, doesn't make it up onto the bed like they planned, or takes a ball to the face during fetch, they will feel embarrassed and you can look for some of the following signs. 

If something embarrassing happens to your dog, right after, they may try and look around them to see if anyone was watching them. This indicates the desire to see if anyone saw them slip on that patch of ice while running for a ball. Your dog may also have a hard time making eye contact with you after they do something humiliating. 

Other signs may include your dog getting up and running away quickly with their head low, as if they are sulking away. They may also put their ears down, tuck their tail between their legs, or just stand there and hang their heads in shame, looking for your comfort. 

If you have a particularly goofy dog and they have a lot of pride, your clumsy dog may even pretend like they meant to slip on that ice and play it cool after. 

Body Language

These are some signs you may notice if your dog feels humiliation:
  • Body freezing
  • Tense jaw
  • Head bobbing
  • Averting eyes
  • Tail tucking
  • Ears back
  • Whale eye
  • Stiff tail

Other Signs

Here are some other signs you may notice if your dog feels humiliation:
  • Seeking your comfort and love after feeling embarrassed
  • Pretending they meant to do the clumsy thing
  • Checking to see if anyone saw them stumble
  • Running away quickly

History of Dogs Feeling Humiliation

Many thousands of years ago, regular people and scientists believed that dogs were not capable of feeling any kind of emotion. It was commonly believed that only humans were divine beings who were able to feel emotions - that's what made our species unique and special. 

However, as time progressed, it became clear that animals, including dogs, were able to feel certain emotions as well. Today, most scientists believe that dogs are only able to feel primary emotions like happiness, fear, excitement, and anger. Secondary emotions, such as humiliation, are only reserved for humans. 

However, this belief is beginning to evolve and change as well. Many modern scientists and studies are starting to confirm dogs do indeed feel secondary emotions like embarrassment.

Dr. Mark Bekoff is one of the leading researchers in this area. He has observed thousands of dogs in his career and has been able to conclude dogs can feel emotions like shame, shyness, embarrassment, and humiliation. 

This is confirmed by many dog owners as well. We all have stories about our dog tripping and falling off the bed ungracefully and then sulking away with their heads hanging in shame. Dogs are sensitive and intelligent creatures and it would only make sense they can feel complex types of emotions as well. 

Science Behind Dogs Feeling Humiliation

The research and science behind dog humiliation and embarrassment is not black and white. There are still a lot of gray areas and uncertainty in dog cognition and behavior, which is to be expected. It is often hard for scientists to truly test and confirm what emotions dogs can experience because we cannot crawl into their brains to see, feel, and hear exactly what our pups are feeling. 

Many scientists believe dogs cannot truly feel more complex secondary emotions and it is the human interpretation of what we perceive as humiliation that has us believe dogs can feel these emotions. 

On the other hand, another researcher (like Dr. Mark Bekoff), Dr. Frederick Range at the University of Vienna agrees with his theory that dogs can feel humiliation and other similar emotions. It is likely we will eventually know much more about man's best friend in the future, but for now, we as dog owners just have to focus on what we think our dogs can do and feel. 

Most dog parents will concur their dogs can most definitely feel embarrassment. Our connections with our dogs are so strong, trust your beliefs and instincts that your dog feels humiliation and secondary emotions similar to how we do. 

Training Dogs to Not Feel Humiliated

Just as we cannot train ourselves to never feel humiliation, the same goes for your dog. This is something all kinds of animals will need to deal with and the best thing we can do is learn to cope with humiliation and embarrassment. 

If your dog does something that makes them feel humiliated, observe their reaction to see how they respond and feel after the fact. If it seems like your dog feels uncomfortable, self-conscious, sad, or down about themselves and their actions, offer them some love and comfort. Dogs can sense your emotions and intentions as well, so letting them know it is okay and that you are there for them will work wonders! 

You can also distract them after they do something embarrassing and are feeling humiliated. Go up to them right away and bring them a toy, ball, or simply run around with them. Do anything that keeps their mind off of the humiliating things they just did. It will make them feel happy and much better about themselves. 

You may also just need to give your dog some time and space for themselves as well. Perhaps let them go to their crate, doggy bed, or their favorite place in the house to get some alone time. Just as you recover from your humiliation, your pooch will too! 

How to React if Your Dog Feels Humiliated:

  • Offer them pets and love.
  • Move on to a different task that your dog enjoys - like fetch or a walk!
  • Giggle a little bit if what they did was funny.

We Want to Hear Your Story About Your Dog Feeling Humiliated!