Understanding Pet Behavior — Dog’s Guilty Faces

Dog owners are quite familiar with the look their pet gives when it knows it’s done something wrong — a bowed head and very large, sad eyes.

Biologist Nathan Lents, writing in Psychology Today, has a name for that look:  the “apology bow.”  But it apparently is more than an attempt to gain your sympathy.  The theory is this apology bow was an essential part of survival before dogs were domesticated.

Researchers have observed wolves using the apology bow after doing something to offend the rest of the pack.  After such a social mistake, the guilty wolf will be shunned for a while.  To regain the pack’s goodwill, Lents explained, “the offending wolf must approach with an apology bow” to show they pose no threat:

“Sharp observers of animal behavior may remark that the “guilty look” has nothing to do with apology or guilt, but rather this is the submissive posture. That is absolutely correct. The actions associated with the apology bow mimic the action shown when a wolf indicates submission to a more dominant, higher-ranking wolf. The head hangs low, panting or smiling stops, eye-contact is avoided, and they literally put their tail between their legs.”

Since dogs are pack animals, their master is the leader of the pack, however small that group might be.  A good apology bow is used to regain your affections: “As social animals, [dogs] crave harmonious integration in the group and neglect or isolation is painful for them,” Lents wrote.

So the apology bow is more than just begging forgiveness, it’s a refined evolutionary behavior.

Maybe it will even work on your boss.

The complete account is at http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2017/04/an-evolutionary-explanation-for-your-dogs-guilty-face.html? .  The photo came from that website.

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