Can Dogs Get Embarrassed?

All of us are subject to being embarrassed at some point in our lives.

Perhaps it’s when you’re asked a question by a teacher or colleague that you know the answer to, but your mind just goes blank. It could be the time you show up at a social gathering and realize you’re either completely over-dressed or under-dressed for the occasion. Maybe you’ve gotten a bad hair cut, or it’s just one of those days when every hair on your head has a different idea how to behave and you can’t get it to look right, no matter what you do.

But what about dogs? Do they ever fall victim to the same feelings of embarrassment?

Embarrassment is a complex emotion.

Many say that dogs are incapable of being embarrassed. These scientists believe that dogs are only capable of basic emotions like fear, happiness, surprise or anger that are immediate reactions to circumstances. For example, when a dog is startled by a loud noise, his surprised jump is automatic.

Embarrassment is considered to be caused by the belief you have done something considered socially or culturally wrong. This requires a self-awareness that many of these scientists don’t believe dogs possess.

dog embarrassed

©istockphoto/TaskeZ

But many dog owners disagree.

They will tell stories of the dog who hid under the bed or in the bushes after getting a bad haircut. Others speak of a time their dog was ill and had an accident in the house. Even though the owner was not angry with the dog, knowing it was not the dog’s fault, the dog will still slink around the house and avoid his owner’s gaze. The owner interprets these actions as signs the dog is embarrassed or ashamed.

Some dogs seem to be embarrassed by the things their owners put them through as well. Although there are dogs that ham it up if their owners put them in a costume or put antlers on them for the holidays, other dogs seem to cringe at this. Dogs’ antics often make humans laugh. But some seem to know the difference between their humans laughing with them and humans laughing at them, and act uncomfortable at the latter. Some believe that when dogs hide or shy away from their humans it’s because the dog is embarrassed. Others believe that the dogs are mirroring what they see in their owners.

Maybe it’s just a projection of human emotion.

Still others believe that the humans are attributing embarrassment as the reason for their dogs’ actions, when the cause is something else entirely. Chances are, all of these can be reasons, depending on the specific dog and circumstances.

Since dogs can’t talk and say what’s bothering them, the question of whether or not dogs get embarrassed will likely remain unanswered for some time. So if you’re doing something that causes you to wonder if your dog is embarrassed, it’s probably best not to do it. If your dog is happy, you’re happy—and that’s a situation you should strive for.

Meet the Author: Pam Hair

Pam Hair is a pet industry copywriter with Fuzzy Friends Writer, where she combines her three passions: a love of animals, a strong desire to help other people, and the joy of writing. She has been a pet parent over the years to dogs, cats, and a variety of rodents. Currently she and her husband share their home with two guinea pigs.

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