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mcbealer's avatar

Do dogs ever feel embarrassed?

Asked by mcbealer (10150 points ) April 14th, 2009

For those of you who are not aware, I have a 13 year old dog, Tilly.
Here is some background on her current health. Her legs are starting to fail, and sometimes when she comes into the foyer to greet us she falls down.

Tonight when I got home, both of her back legs went out from under her, and she landed on her belly with both hind legs splayed out like a frog. She tried to scoot herself back up but couldn’t so we wound up helping her.

I wonder if at this point in her life, faced with physical limitations, and still trucking on, does Tilly ever feel embarrassed when she falls down, loses her balance, etc? Or is this an anthropomorphic characterization on my part?

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12 Answers

eponymoushipster's avatar

i don’t think animals feel embarrassed, they’re not as self-aware as humans.

and they sniff asses, constantly. her sense of embarrassment had to be gone a long time ago.

chyna's avatar

One time when my dog tried to walk through my mom’s french door and the screen was closed and she smacked into it, she totally seemed embarrassed. She hung her head and wouldn’t go through that door again. Good to hear the update on Tilly. She is a beautiful dog.

rooeytoo's avatar

I believe dogs react to the way their humans act. If your dog gets a haircut and everyone makes fun of it and laughs, the dog reacts, I don’t know if it is embarrassment but it knows something is not quite right.

When my dogs are old and ill, I project my feelings into the situation and I do not want to suffer or be in pain or lose my dignity, so when my dogs have reached the point where they were experiencing these conditions, I hold their paw and cry and have them put to sleep.

If you opt for that, make sure the vet tranquilizes the dog before they euthanize.

YARNLADY's avatar

I had a dog that tried to hide after we had him sheared for the summer. He seemed embarrassed to not have his fur. The dog I now have hangs his head when I come in the house whenever he has tipped over the wastebaskets, embarrassed or sorry, I don’t know which.

RedPowerLady's avatar

I’m not sure if it is embarrassment as we experience it but I would say that I do believe dogs exhibit behaviors similar to embarrassment (whether that is what it is or not). I think all of us who have dogs could think of some good examples of behaviors that resemble embarrassment. So I would say that “yes” they can experience this emotion or at least they act as if they do.

Darwin's avatar

My dogs certainly know when they have done something that is against the Law of the Pack. They won’t look directly at me, hang their heads, and let their tails droop. Now whether they feel actual embarrassment or not I don’t know, but they are very obviously uneasy about what I will do in response to what they have done.

I have also seen my dogs react as if they were embarrassed when one of the kids has put hats on them, or tied fluffy ribbons on their collars. Again, whether they are embarrassed in the human sense or not I don’t know. But they sure act as if they don’t want to be seen like that.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Darwin and conversly, some dogs, like mine, love to dress up in costumes and win contests.

Judi's avatar

I don’t know about dogs, but have you ever seen a cat loose it’s cool? (You know, when they’re walking like a model down a runway then slip off the ledge or something?) Cats get very embarrassed when they loose their cool.

Judi's avatar

my molly dog did act kind of shy and embarrassed the first time she got shaved. She hid out for a while.

cak's avatar

I feel fairly certain that at least one of my dogs is perfectly aware that she’s doing dorky things, at least half the day…every single day. She looks around to see if people are looking, if they are – she immediately looks away and tucks her tail between her legs.

Poor girl. She tries.

dlm812's avatar

Like many have said above, I am not sure whether dogs feel the exact same emotion as the human “embarrassment”, but I do believet that they experience something similar. The JRT I had growing up, when in the last year of his life, started loosing control of his bladder and accidentally going in the house – he always showed sorrow and ‘embarrassment’ because he felt like he was being a bad dog (we NEVER admonished him for this – so there was no reason for him to feel like a bad dog.. and in fact as a puppy, he had only gone to the bathroom once in the house, spent the night outside in the kennel, and was 110% housetrained from then on). Also, my currnet dog used to react the same way when he would get a bad stomach and couldn’t make it to the door on time.

Basically, it is my belief that we may never know exactly what thoughts/emotions/feelings dogs have, but I do think that people underestimate them.

dkrluvmydogs's avatar

Yes. They definitely get their feelings hurt. But they certainly aren’t embarrassed in the same way that you & I are or they wouldn’t want to do their business in public like you don’t. There’s a difference.

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