Can Dogs Feel Resentment?


As a dog owner, you know that dogs can experience emotions deeply. You’ve witnessed your dog getting jealous, angry, and seeking attention. This leads you to wonder what other emotions dogs can feel. Can they hold grudges or resent you? It’s a valid question, especially when you’ve had to punish your dog and wonder if they’re resentful about it.

We’re here to provide some relief: No, dogs can’t resent you, at least not exactly.

While it’s possible for dogs to feel frustration, jealousy, and other emotions, it’s important to understand that they don’t consciously choose to feel these things. Dogs lack the ability to understand why they feel a certain way or intentionally act on those feelings.

Instead, dogs react based on stimuli and cause-and-effect. So, if you think your dog peed on the carpet because you yelled at them earlier, it’s less about resentment and more about learned behavior.

If you want to learn more about your dog’s emotions and how to differentiate between resentment and reaction, keep reading!

Signs Your Dog Might Show Resentment-Like Behavior

Although dogs experience emotions, resentment is a complex feeling specific to humans that dogs don’t have the capacity to develop. While your dog can exhibit resentful or grudge-like reactions, they aren’t consciously associating your actions with their reactions due to a particular feeling.

Dogs have poor short-term, episodic memory, meaning they often forget events shortly after they occur. However, they have strong associative memory, which may cause them to react in certain ways and make you believe they’re holding a grudge or acting resentful.

Body Language

Here are some body language cues to look out for if you suspect your dog is displaying resentful-like behavior:

– Shaking
– Cowering
– Panting
– Dropping ears
– Carrying tail low
– Tucking tail
– Ears back

Other Signs

Pay attention to these additional signs:

– Destructive behavior
– Nipping or biting
– Territorial or aggressive behavior
– Lunging or attacking

History of Dog Emotions

The debate over whether dogs can experience certain emotions has been ongoing in the veterinary, animal psychiatry, and behaviorism fields. People rarely come to a definitive answer, but this debate has been ongoing for centuries.

French philosopher Rene Descartes, in the 1500s, argued that animals only possess mechanical functions similar to humans and lack consciousness and emotions. Others, like dog behavioral scientist Stanley Coren, believe that dogs can feel emotions like love, anger, and depression but not more complex human-specific emotions such as resentment, guilt, or shame.

The Science Behind Resentment

Resentment is a complex human emotion that dogs, according to behaviorists and scientists, are not believed to be capable of experiencing. To understand why, it’s important to know what resentment is.

Resentment is a human emotion used to explain misfortune and protect against disappointment. It is often a constant, bitter indignation resulting from feeling treated unfairly.

Dogs cannot grasp this human emotion because they can’t comprehend what is fair and what isn’t. They also lack the ability to consciously hold grudges based on specific experiences due to their poor short-term, episodic memory.

Training Your Dog to Overcome Negative Associations

You might feel stuck with your dog’s negative association behaviors that resemble holding a grudge or being resentful. However, you can learn how to train your dog out of these negative associations.

For example, if your dog has associated barking or nipping with a specific dog they don’t get along with at the park, you can teach them to disassociate these behaviors. Start by teaching your dog a new response.

If your dog has trained themselves to behave a certain way around a dog or person, you need to ensure they understand that behavior is unacceptable. Consistency is key. Monitor your dog closely and reward them consistently when they behave appropriately while punishing them when they react negatively. Be proactive by informing others in your dog’s life to reinforce new cues and help break the negative associations.

“Training your dog out of negative associations is possible with consistency and proactive measures.”

Tips & Things to Know

1️⃣ Dogs don’t hold grudges: While your dog may exhibit behaviors that seem like resentment, such as excessive barking or destructive behavior, it’s important to remember that dogs don’t have the capacity to consciously hold a grudge. Their reactions are more based on learned associations rather than intentional resentment.

2️⃣ Look out for body language: If you suspect your dog may be exhibiting resentful-like behavior, pay attention to their body language. Signs like shaking, cowering, panting, ears dropping, low tail carriage, tail tucking, and ears back may indicate that your dog is feeling anxious or stressed.

3️⃣ Training can help with negative associations: If your dog has developed negative associations with certain situations or other dogs, you can work on training them to disassemble these associations. Consistency in rewarding positive behavior and punishing negative behavior, along with proactive communication with others who interact with your dog, can help change their reactions and improve their behavior.

Frequently Asked Questions, Answered ✅

1. Can dogs feel resentment or hold grudges?
No, dogs are not capable of feeling resentment or holding grudges. They react based on learned behaviors and associations rather than conscious emotions.

2. What are some signs that may indicate resentment-like behavior in dogs?
Excessive barking, biting, scratching, growling, and lunging can be signs of resentment-like behavior in dogs.

3. How can I recognize if my dog is displaying resentful behavior through body language?
Look out for shaking, cowering, panting, ears dropping or being back, low tail carriage, tail tucking, and ears back as potential signs of resentful behavior in dogs.

4. What are some other signs that my dog may be displaying negative associations or behaviors?
Destructive behavior, nipping or biting, territorial or aggressive behavior, and lunging or attacking can be signs of negative associations or behaviors in dogs.

5. Can dogs feel complex emotions like resentment, guilt, or shame?
Dogs are believed to feel emotions such as love, anger, and depression, but they are not able to process more complex, human-specific emotions like resentment, guilt, or shame.

Max Kozinskiy
Max Kozinskiy
Max Kozinskiy is a seasoned writer and an enthusiast of dog breed expertise. Having dedicated over 5 years to studying the intricacies of different dog breeds and their unique characteristics. His profound insights and love for our four-legged friends have made him an invaluable part of our team.

Related Pet Guides