(p. 6) Dr. Horowitz concluded that whether dogs take on a guilty look — lowered gaze, ears pressed back, tail rapidly beating between the legs — is unrelated to whether or not they followed orders. If the owner scolds them, they look extremely guilty. If the owner doesn’t, they still sometimes look like this, but less often.
One problem, however, is that our rules are of our own making, such as “Don’t jump on that couch!” or “Keep your nails off my leather chair!” It must be as tough for our pets to grasp these prohibitions as it was for me to understand why I couldn’t chew gum in Singapore.
It would be better to test behavior that is wrong by almost any standard, including that of their own species. The Austrian ethologist Konrad Lorenz gave one of my favorite examples, about his dog, Bully, who broke the fundamental rule never to bite your superior.
Humans don’t need to teach this rule, and indeed Bully had never been punished for it. The dog bit his master’s hand when Dr. Lorenz (p. 7) tried to break up a dogfight. Even though Dr. Lorenz petted him right away, Bully suffered a complete nervous breakdown. For days, he was virtually paralyzed and ignored his food. He would lie on the rug breathing shallowly, occasionally interrupted by a deep sigh. He had violated a natural taboo, which among ancestral canines could have had the worst imaginable consequences, such as expulsion from the pack.
For the full commentary, see:
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date March 8, 2019.)