Pet Shaming Just Never Gets Old

Mary Simpson
by Mary Simpson
Photo credit: mikeledray/

For those of us with pooch partners, the ability to relate to other households dealing with naughty canine capers similar to our own, hit a crescendo back in 2012 when micro-blog site Tumblr posted its first dog-shaming image – a dachshund who had downed a pair of his owner’s undies. Posted as a one-time joke, the concept went viral after the site allowed others to upload their pix and in short order, thousands signed up to share and shame.

Fast forward and although the original site still remains active, the ad hoc ability to shame your pet in a fun, eye-roll manner continues to be seen in various forms of social media.

All this begs the question; do dogs really feel anything close to the shame they seem to express in these photogs? Sure, those pix of our best buddy with eyes downcast and that iconic hang-dog expression suggest deep remorse, but does Rover really give a dang whether he’s been busted?

According to Scientific American, the answer is a resounding “nope.”  While they confirm there is evidence our pets can display certain feelings, these are typically primary emotions such as fear or happiness that are more instinctive than considered. When it comes to secondary emotions – think pride, jealousy and yes, guilt or shame – they require a level of self-awareness and cognitive ability that our fur kids simply don’t possess. In short, it would be extremely rare for any pet to feel the genuine remorse they appear to display.

But there’s more because our best buddies also don’t recognize “time” and that means that unless you actually catch him in the act of pooping on the floor or chewing your favorite shoes, he really doesn’t understand why you’re scolding him after the fact. And this includes you taking the time to point out the transgression with the usual “no” stated loud and clear. Our pooch just doesn’t connect the dots and that guilty, submissive body language he’s exhibiting is simply him reacting to your anger. No shame here!

But back to those dog-shaming shenanigans that have created not only a worldwide blog sensation but an Amazon-worthy calendar industry. A 2023 Forbes survey of 2,000 dog owners in the U.S. identified the most common theme for their postings and no surprise it was down to their pet having chewed or scarfed down everything from shoes and clothing to pillows, toilet paper, make-up, and the entire stash of “safely” secured treats. Lesson here? Keep doors closed and those goodies locked up high, or grab your smartphone and get ready to post.

Mary Simpson
Mary Simpson

Sharing space with three seriously judgy Schnoodles and a feline who prefers to be left alone. #LivingMyBestLife

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