The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Lifestyle

February 27, 2014

Behaviorists: Dogs feel no shame despite the look

(Continued)

She thinks the online dog shaming memes are all in good fun.

"People come for a laugh and camaraderie," Lemire said. "They see that their dog isn't the only one who does awful things. People don't shame their dogs out of anger, they do it out of love."

Another dog owner helped get celebrities into the trend. In late 2011, Jeremy Lakaszcyck of Boston started putting shaming videos of his lemon beagle, Maymo, on YouTube. Four months later, Ellen DeGeneres ran one of them on her show and comedian Ricky Gervais tweeted it. The popularity of the videos soared, Lakaszcyck said.

He also submitted photos to Lemire for dogshaming.com, which made Maymo even more famous.

Maymo has a naturally sad or guilty face and senses something is wrong if Lakaszcyck speaks in a stern voice. "They know when their owners are angry.

"Maymo can sit for quite a while looking sad because he's a ham. It's natural, and he knows a treat is coming. His tail usually wags through the wait. It's like he's happy on one end and sad on the other," he said.

One of the first scientific studies on the "guilty dog look" was conducted in 2009 by Alexandra Horowitz, an associate professor of psychology at Barnard College in New York City. One of her books, "Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know," included the findings.

In the study, she used 14 dogs, videotaping them in a series of trials and studying how they reacted when an owner left the room after telling them not to eat a treat. When the owners returned, sometimes they knew what the dogs had done and sometimes they didn't and sometimes the dogs had eaten the treats and sometimes they hadn't.

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