‘Dog Shaming’ Undermines Pets’ Dignity, Welfare Experts Say

Jasper Copping, Telegraph (London), November 5, 2013

It is an internet craze that has inspired and amused thousands of dog lovers: Misbehaving pets are endearingly photographed looking suitably hangdog, in front of a sign broadcasting their misdemeanours to the world.


But the phenomenon of “dog shaming” is not the harmless fun it seems, according to vets and animal welfare experts.

They have warned that many of the images of pets supposedly looking sheepish and guilty in fact show the animals exhibiting fear or anxiety.

Owners who have posted such pictures of their dogs have been criticised for “mocking” their dogs, with the experts warning that the trend is undermining pets’ “dignity” and could be masking underlying health and behavioural problems.

Caroline Kisko, secretary of the Kennel Club, who has studied several “dogshaming” photographs, said: “The idea of shaming a dog is daft. Dogs don’t like having the mickey taken out of them and can undoubtedly plug into that. So why would you do that to your pet? You wouldn’t mock your family or your friends like this, so why your dog?


“It might be a bit of fun, when it is kept to a reasonable level, but people take them too far and it stops being funny for the dog. Dogs have a level of dignity and we don’t want to undermine that. They are meant to be a companion, not a joke.”

The craze started last year, and there are now dedicated websites and Twitter profiles on the subject, as well as a spin-off book.

In some cases, owners post only images. In others, videos of “shamed” dogs are put online. In America, celebrities such as Lauren Conrad, the television personality, have posted pictures of their own pets.

Among the most common are images of dogs which have eaten something they should not have, or destroyed items belonging to their owners.

The experts have warned such behaviour could be a symptom of stress or underlying health problems.


Professor Peter Neville from the Centre of Applied Pet Ethology, said: “Things soon get confusing for our dogs when we believe that they can experience higher emotions such guilt, shame or spite. Or that they can predict the consequences of their behaviour and so learn to behave differently from what we falsely interpret as their embarrassment or shame if their mistakes are pointed out to them after the event, or explained in human language.

“Such confrontation, while intended as a spot of fun for owners. can simply be unkind because the dog cannot experience or empathise with these emotions in their owners and simply feels threatened by their negative attention at such times.”

He said that owners who insisted in shaming their pets online could cause the animals “acute or even chronic stress”. He added: “That ultimately leads to depression, inappetence, reduced immunity, one unhappy dog and a decayed relationship.”

The warnings follow a study by Drontal, the veterinary treatment manufacturer, involving analysis of 12 family pets, which found that in each case, the owners were consistently misinterpreting “fear” as “guilt”. A wider study, involving almost 500 owners, found 40 per cent making the same mistake.

Emily Rackley, small animal vet, said: “On the surface of it dog shaming appears to be a humorous trend, merely making light of a bad situation and capturing a dog’s ‘guilt’ on camera. But, what many pet owners don’t realise is that dogs don’t feel guilt. It is not one of their emotions. What pet owners commonly photograph on these dog shaming images, is actually anxiety or fear – the classic signs being head down, ears back. It really isn’t kind to laugh at the animal and mock them – you wouldn’t do that to a friend, so you shouldn’t do that to your pet.”


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  • D.B. Cooper

    These dogs are lucky. I have seen the sadness in a dog’s eyes when my girlfriend would put those reindeer antlers on him during the holidays. There is an actual article which brings up the possibility of dogs embarrassed by Halloween.
    Seriously. Do you think dogs, who already walk around buck naked, really care?

    • IstvanIN

      Dogs aren’t naked, they have coats!

    • So CAL Snowman

      That is beyond awesome, an Imperial AT AT dog costume.

    • Bon, From the Land of Babble

      My dog won 1st place in a Halloween Costume Contest one year — dressed as a Yellow Submarine. He beat out about 30 other dogs for the honor and I could tell he was very proud and honored.

      First prize was a dish towel and a blue ribbon which I hung over his dog bed.


  • IstvanIN

    Dogs are more aware than many people think. I have known dogs to do spiteful things and then try, much later, to cover up the evidence. They feel guilt. They get annoyed. They show fear and love. They certainly are not people but they are pretty amazing. But I don’t think a sign saying “I stole pancakes” will really cause them emotional distress. That is a bit far.

    • Puggg

      And they have an innate sense of fairness. If you treat one better than the other, the one you give the short shrift to will do less to try to please you. Take it from someone has owned multiple dogs for just about all of his adult life.

      • IstvanIN

        They do have a sense of right and wrong, at least the one’s that are raised right. Ever notice how patient dogs are with little kids? They pull their tails and generally pester the poor things but the dogs are just so cool about it.

        • When I point, our fox will always go get the rabbit and bring it back. He also always gets some of it. Disappointing him in this respect would be a betrayal of trust.

      • Bunky

        Yeah, but how about when they lick ALL the syrup, leaving none for you?
        Wouldn’t you put a sign next to the dog then?

  • Son of Galton

    Meanwhile, in a Bantu ghetto near you, groids are training Pitbulls to rip smaller animals to shreds for their own sick, demented amusement. However, since this activity is mostly within the purview of the esteemed black “comoonity,” seldom will be heard a discouraging word.

    OTOH, dog shaming, which mostly seems to be a limp-wristed White pastime, will be scrutinized for any sign of harm to animals, especially as pertains to their psychological health–wouldn’t want to create any cases of bipawlar disorder, now would we?

  • Puggg

    The good thing about small toy dogs with short legs and generally no jumping ability, (yes, I’ve seen videos of isolated cases otherwise), is that they can’t purloin table food.

    But, yes, I’ve had my leg peed on.

  • pcmustgo

    This reminds me of the creepy article I read about the creepy Asian DragonLady nurse who took photos of babies in hospitals in humiliating positions and wearing bizarre costumes, and then posted them online.- like she had some kind of hatred towards babies.

  • Truthseeker

    When the dogs start complaining, I’ll start caring.

  • Alexandra1973

    As if the dogs can actually read what’s on the signs. Give me a break.

    • Skip Wellington

      Maybe the signs can display positive messages (thereby raising the self-esteem of the dogs).

      AS IF.

  • dd121

    When I went to high school the science teachers used to talk about “anthropomorphism”. Thats attributing human characteristics to animals. The Bible separates animals from humans with humans having dominion over critters. Modern liberal thought asserts that animals and humans are the same and should have the same “rights”. I guess today’s attitudes are reverting to an animistic, pre-civilization state.

    • Larry Klein

      And the bible thumpers are also telling us we should all bend over for the immigrant invasion. Dogs are better citizens than the knockout king hobbyists

      • Alexandra1973

        This Bible thumper is all for kicking them out, not welcoming them in.

        Of course, if the people to whom you are referring actually READ the Bible…and obeyed it…they wouldn’t be on the immigrant welcome wagon.

      • dd121

        The only bible thumper I know who favors the alien invasion is the Pope. The ones in this country who I know, don’t.

    • Anon

      Yes, there is a certain amount of anthropomorphism (and I am going to assume you actually know what that word means). But, many pet owners, especially dog owners will tell you that dogs are capable of two way communication, often complex communication. Not just training but understanding. Dogs are capable of expanding the context of a situation. They are capable of learning and applying principles from one situation to another, not just rote obedience to what is rewarded or punished.

      Skinner was full of crap.

      • dd121

        I’m just saying that your pet is not your surrogate child.

    • saxonsun

      The bible is a load of crap–how is it possible that there are STILL people who take that compilation of very messed-up fairy tales as reality?

      • dd121

        Even though you may not be a believer and disagree with the Bible, it is the foundation of Western Civilization. Take that away and we’re left with is new age tree worshippers.

  • bigone4u

    What would that Mexican phony who calls himself The Dog Whisperer say about this? What I say is that the undisciplined dog is a dog ready to take over the household. Dogs, like children (and they are our fur-babies), thrive on discipline.

    • IstvanIN

      With all respect dogs are not our “fur babies”. Our babies are our babies and our dogs are our dogs. Too many white people seem to think that dogs can take the place of children, let’s not encourage that notion.

      • bigone4u

        The fertility rate among white women is a serious problem for the white race, but more due to feminism and economic factors than dog-for-child substitution. Some women do act as if their little dog or their cat is a good replacement for the child they don’t want or cannot have.

    • Nathanwartooth


  • Spartacus

    I hate the world I live in…

    • Whitetrashgang

      Things could be worse you could be married to a old jewish woman who likes dogs and will not cook for you except when the USA is going to war for Israelhell

    • Don’t hate it. I’m a convicted federal felon on the Terrorist Watch List. I have a home I own outright, a family and plenty of good food. My wife likes taking showers with me; what’s not to like? Plenty of good things here, my friend!

      • Spartacus

        But they’re getting fewer and fewer each day…

  • Anon

    Amazing the loops the liberal brain is able to go through.

    So….dogs are simultaneously unable to process, understand etc. these things yet can be hurt by the shame of it. An affront to their dignity. Amazing.

    The irony is the entire article is an attempt to “shame” people from simply doing something harmless and funny. Without anything legitimate to say about anything, even though there is, perhaps much to look at here.

    A few things. First of all, dogs are smart. Especially certain breeds of dogs. They can understand language….and I mean they can understand language outside of simple contextual ques. Most dogs do not….but that is because those who have them as pets are too stupid to realize these things, let alone make any real attempt to communicate with their pet.

    The very least a dog owner should do is get a “clicker” and a book on “clicker training” and some reasonable treats. Suddenly, you will discover just how smart your dog is. But it goes beyond this…..far beyond it. There is a reason dogs are domesticated by humans. Chances are, problems are just a lack a knowledge on the owners part.

    Perhaps the biggest problem is a dog owner wants a pet, but ends up with a partner, with all the commitment that implies. If you want a pet, get a cat. Better, get TWO cats from the same litter. Get them fixed. Keep their litter clean and their tummies full and they will interact with you when you want and take care of themselves the other 99% of the time.

    A dog? Well….if you don’t have any children, you are about to find out what it takes to care for one, lol.

  • KingKenton

    Bad human, bad!!

  • Phillip

    I’ve never shamed a dog for being a dog, but I have shamed a dog for being fat.
    So, is that fat-dog-shaming, or simply fat-shaming?

    • Bon, From the Land of Babble

      Stop taking your dog to MacDonald’s, then you won’t have a reason shame him!!

      That slop they pass off as “food” is not fit for humans OR dogs.

      BTW, NO ONE is fat, they are merely differently weighted.

      • Blue-eyed Devil

        I eat at MacDonald’s all the time and think their food is delicious. Your comment was insensitive and hurtful.

        • Bon, From the Land of Babble

          Frankly, I don’t give a damn what you think.

          • Blue-eyed Devil

            Do your Latino students know that you’re a CLOSET RACIST?

        • Xerxes22

          You shouldn’ eat at McDonalds at all because of their anti White ads. They have toned them down a bit lately, but they are still offensive. Patronize another fast food place untill McDonalds apologizes.

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    Some dogs deserve to be mocked!!

    • I haven’t recently said that I love you, but I still do. “Lost Dawg” made me smile.

      • Bon, From the Land of Babble

        Thanks for the great sentiment, it means a lot to me.

        AND, I’m sending along my Christmas gift list to you early — either one of these will do nicely!!


  • Talltrees

    Dogs do show guilt when caught, different body language, eye movements and facial expressions from those of fear. It’s obvious the Great Dane, Lab, and tan, floppy eared dog, could care less and not traumatized. Carrying on the scolding too long is cruel, but making a sign that the dog cannot read is a silly reason to criticize those doing it.

    What can we call it other than human behavior when our dogs express human characteristics? They act like our children; therefore, they are viewed as children. Recognizing these characteristics in our dogs is a sign of keen awareness and intelligence on our part.

    Those criticizing fail to recognize how far dogs have evolved from the wolf. They are so smart, I’m expecting my dogs to break out in English any day.

  • Xerxes22

    How come there aren’t any cat shaming videos ?

    • Blue-eyed Devil

      As in Morris the Cat?

    • William Krapek

      I saw one a while ago:

      “I watched a mouse eat my food and did nothing.”

      He seemed to be taking it in good spirits. 🙂

    • GeneticsareDestiny

      I’ve seen some pictures. If you google “cat shaming,” you can find tons. There’s probably videos as well.

  • me

    Women need to just stop with this insanity! Dogs aren’t people! Cats aren’t people! Dogs and cats can’t read or use the internet, stupid! Back in the day, they would take you out behind the wood pile and beat the idiot out of you.