Do Shih Tzus Know When They Have Done Something Wrong?

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Have you ever wondered if Shih Tzus know when they have done something wrong and if they do, how do they know it? This toy breed is pretty smart and it is very in tune with its owner. This makes them more aware of your emotions, but can they understand them well enough to know they are in trouble?

Do Shih Tzus Know When They Have Done Something Wrong?

Shih Tzus are pretty smart little creatures and they do seem to almost know what you’re thinking, but does that mean they know when they have been bad?

Do they feel guilty when they have been naughty?

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Do Shih Tzus Know Right From Wrong?

Research has shown that Shih Tzus don’t actually know right from wrong.

What they can do is pick up on if their owner is upset with them or happy with them.

If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.

If you are angry with your Shih Tzu you are going to use a stern voice with them.

You might even yell.

All breeds of dogs will figure out you are unhappy.

Shih Tzus will as they read their human family really well.

But that doesn’t mean they understand they have done something wrong.

They just know you are not happy.

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Why Do They Act Guilty?

So the question becomes, why do Shih Tzus act guilty if they don’t understand right and wrong?

The truth is, they aren’t acting guilty.

What is happening instead is we are projecting human emotions and human traits onto our dogs.

It is called anthropomorphism.

Too often I see where someone thinks their Shih Tzu has done something, such as going potty in the house to “spite” their owner or to be hateful.

That’s actually nonsense.

Dogs don’t have those emotions.

They are human emotions that the pet owner is projecting on their dog.

So, why do dogs look guilty when they do something bad?

What You Think is Guilt Could Be Fear

Shih Tzus certainly have expressive faces and seem to show a lot of emotion, and that includes guilt, but often times when you think they are showing guilt they are actually displaying signs of fear or stress.

This is a big distinction that pet owners and prospective owners need to understand.

You can test this out yourself.

Let’s say your Shih Tzu did something wrong such as getting into the garbage.

If you scold your dog, it will most likely look guilty.

If you ignore what happened and just clean up the mess, and don’t get upset or scold them, they will most likely not look or act as if they feel guilty.

Most of the guilt response you see is actually a reaction to the scolding and not the bad act.

Your Shit Tzu is picking up on your actions instead of even thinking about what they did wrong.

There are typical behaviors Shih Tzus display when they are supposed to be showing guilt.

These include the following:

  • Cowering
  • Licking
  • Tucked tail
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Yawning

And while all of these expressions can seem to indicate guilt they are all actually a response a dog shows when they feel fear or even when they are stressed.

Larger breed dogs do the same thing.

You might also enjoy:

The Shih Tzu Personality – The Good, Bad, and Ugly

Are Shih Tzus Good With Kids?

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Why ScoldingYour Shih Tzu After the Fact Can Backfire

Let’s say you have been out for a good part of the day and you come home and your Shih Tzu has done something wrong such as going to the bathroom or chewing up your favorite shoe.

You naturally are upset, so you decide to scold your dog.

If they have peed, you pull them over to the spot point at the area and scold them.

Maybe you shake the shoe in the face and scold them for that.

Your dog will understand that you are upset with them, but they won’t understand why.

In time, they might come to fear you and run away from you when you come home instead of treating you at the door with tail wagging.

Since your dog doesn’t actually show guilt or understand what they did wrong, the best option is to provide them with training to encourage the behavior you are looking for.

Or consider other resources such as doggie daycare or a dog walker to give them an opportunity to get some exercise and a poddy break during the middle of the day.

If your Shih Tzu is getting into things, then that could be a sign of boredom.

Be sure they get a lot of exercise before you leave them alone for the day and that they have plenty of toys for stimulation.

You might also enjoy:

Why Do Shih Tzus Roll in the Dirt?

Why Does My Shih Tzu Sit on Me When I Lay Down?

To Sum it All Up:

While your Shih Tzu might look as if they feel guilty, the jury is still out on whether or not that is true. Most likely they are simply picking up on your displeasure and not actually feeling guilty for what they have done. Also, those guilty looks could actually be fear, so think before you scold.




Please Note:
This article is informational only and does not substitute for veterinary advice. Always check with your veterinarian or doctor if you are concerned about your Shih Tzu’s. This article should not be considered in any way as veterinarian advice.

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