5 min read


Can Dogs Feel Injustice?



5 min read


Can Dogs Feel Injustice?


We live in a society where people constantly fight for injustice. The petitions online speak volumes for unjust happenings with both people and animals. Our justice system is overloaded with cases of mistreated animals and folk who deserved better than they got. 

While wonderful humans pledge their support for the plight of pooches all over the world, one has to wonder, do our dogs have a sense of their own injustice? Is there a secret code of conduct between a Papillon and Mastiff in the dog park when either of them does wrong? It's time to take a look at what goes on in the canine mind and how they view and feel injustice.


Signs a Dog Recognizes Injustice

Dogs are connected to humans and, through centuries of domestication, have learned a thing or two about how we think.

As we embrace their differences and love them for their loyalty and companionship,  they don’t say much, but speak volumes with their eyes and body language. Watch how your Pug tilts their head when you appear sad. They may whine or whimper letting you know they understand. 

For too long, this simple action was denied until the science community got interested in mutts. They wanted to know how dogs think, feel, and react - and then it was front-page news: "Your Husky, Beagle or Irish Setter has feelings akin to humans."

You have to feel sorry for our woofers that it took so long for the obvious to be accepted. We are smart beings who have navigated a challenging landscape called earth, but sometimes, the simplest of things seem difficult to grasp.

Now the discussion is "can dogs feel injustice?" Let’s jump over the kennel and say yes. If you have more than one woofer in your home, it’s fairly evident they understand honor and fair play. 

Luke, your Welsh Corgi, loves treats but so does Leia, your Miniature Bull Terrier. When those mouth-watering morsels are being handed out, Luke tends to gobble them down while Princess Leia takes her time. The treat-giving gets out of sync and Luke paces around the kitchen, thinking he’s been wronged. His grumpy face is a picture, with a furrowed brow and a twitchy nose, he demonstrates his feelings of unfairness. Luke goes all-out play-bowing and raises his paw, hoping justice will prevail.

Body Language

Signs a dog senses injustice are:

  • Whining
  • Pacing
  • Furrowed Brow
  • Twitching Whiskers
  • Whimpering
  • Paw Raised
  • Play Bowing

Other Signs

Signs a pooch feels injustice include:<br/>

  • Acting Distressed When Sensing Unfair Treatment
  • Attempting To Rectify The Scenario
  • Looking To You To Fix The Situation

History of Dogs Understanding Injustice


If you want to know how wolves operate, the Wolf Science Center in Vienna is a fact-finding place where they study the evolution of dogs and wolves. According to K Magazine and researchers at the center, dogs inherited their sense of injustice from wolves - not humans.

The legendary wolf, a subject of spiritualism and awe, has a just style of existence, living in packs where they generally mate for life. Their faithful traits are not unlike humans as they care for their young and create ethical communities with bonds of support. The union between man and wolf that took place thousands of years ago has not been honored in this era, with wolves denied their right to survive.

According to Psychology Today, the animal kingdom offers an insight into unique justice and morality systems, highlighted by a group of elephants that were recorded freeing antelopes from an enclosure. The lady boss of the group unlatched the gate and let the animals go free.

Charles Darwin believed that animals blessed with a social aptitude were capable of a moral conscience. In the book, Wild Justice: The Moral Lives Of Animals, the author tells us it was originally thought that wolves determined the size of their pack in relation to food resources. Now researchers have found wolves form packs based on compatible bonds where there is justice for those who go against the pack.

Psychology Today also reported a mousey tale of empathy when two baby mice were found stuck in a sink. The director of the Indiana Coyote Rescue Center took pity on the tired mice and put a small lid of water for them to drink. One wee mouse was exhausted, so its friend found a piece of food and slowly tempted him toward the water. Human kindness kicked in and a little ramp was made to help the mice get out. Animals understand the concept of empathy, a key factor in perceiving injustice.

The Science of Dogs Feeling Injustice


Our current view of fun and games in the dog park could be a window to the real world of dog morality. According to Peta, a professor of ecology and biology at the University of Colorado-Boulder believes our weird and wonderful woofers live by their own rules of justice.

The classic play-bow stance often seen in the dog park has a dual meaning. They might be bringing a ball or toy to promote a play session, but it’s also a dog’s way of saying. “Sorry, buddy I was being a bit ruff!”

You may never look at a dog the same way again, as this professor sparks controversy with his analysis of how large dogs often let little pups jump all over them. You could liken this to a 7-foot basketball player letting a shorter guy win a few hoops.

You only have to see how dogs show sympathy when we are feeling sad when they put their head or paw in our laps. They are emotive creatures who embrace their human’s pain. The bond between dog and guardian is also expressed with other dogs they might consider friends.

A study at the University of Vienna, Austria found dogs understand fair play. The woofers involved knew how to shake or raise their paw when requested. Things got interesting when treat rewards were introduced to some and not others. The pooches who received no treats lost interest in giving up their paw. These mutts were outraged that the humans were being unfair and unjust! 

Helping Your Dog to Feel Less Slighted


People who are envious of another person’s good fortune believe they have been served with an injustice as they should have the same as the other person. Dogs can go down this road when preference is shown to the cat, new baby, or other mutt in the home. Many a family dogfight has come about because an owner cuddled one pooch longer or appeared to play with the other pooch more often. Dogs are keen observers and, like people, may be more prone to jealousy than others.

The green-eyed monster has caused marriages to dissolve and humans to do crazy things in the names of what they considered fair play or justice. Wolves, on the other hand, are fair-minded creatures that passed this quality to their descendant dogs. The disbelievers insist we try to convey dogs as human but what they fail to see is most agree our Dobermans, Chows, and Corgis don’t look much like us while still sharing similar emotive traits.

Free From Harm believes humans came from apes but have since then created a gap between us and all other animals. This supremacy syndrome allows our animal friends to suffer in silence. A human's sense of injustice toward other earth inhabitants can only be rectified by accepting we are, perhaps, not so different.

Various training regimes teach a dog how to sit, stay, and come with a price to pay. The bridge between punishment style techniques and positive encouragement is widening as information comes to pass about the awareness levels of dogs. 

If you treat them like robots, they just might rebel. Many a dog that has been trained or treated unjustly has turned back on their owner. Lawyers would argue the other party was defending themself but our woofers are not always considered equal or worthy of human justice.

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Safety Tips for Dogs Wanting Fair Play:

  1. Always give two dogs in the home equal treats and time with you.
  2. Understand dogs have their own code of injustice.
  3. Read stories about other people's dogs showing they understand injustice.
  4. Employ the services of a positive-reinforcement dog trainer who will treat your pooch with respect.
  5. Share your story!

Written by a Japanese Chin lover Linda Cole

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 05/09/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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