Do you believe that you have seen your dog or dogs being spiteful? Perhaps you fed them their breakfast a little late and they didn’t look at you for an hour afterward. It is easy to personify our pets and say they are acting out of revenge or spite. But is there any evidence behind this concept? Often humans can believe dogs are experiencing certain emotions when that is not the case. However, dogs are also much more intelligent than many give them credit for.
So can we own spiteful dogs and are some more spiteful than others? We are going to explore dog behavior and what behaviorists have discovered about spite and dogs. It can help us to understand how they feel and know if something is a problem that we may need to tackle. Negative moods can be a sign of something bigger, so let’s take a look.
What Does It Mean To be Spiteful
Spiteful means to be hostile towards someone as a form of revenge. It is used when someone is displeased or resentful of another’s actions so actively seeks to upset them back. So how would this apply to dogs? well, expectations of spite by dogs often pertain to walks, food, sharing, and punishment. Many owners will believe their dog is spiteful through their behavior and behavioral changes. One of the most common observations is a dog turning away from their owner. A dog may sit away from their owner at the opposite side of the room and turn away from them. Humans will perceive this behavior as a form of punishment from their dog. As if they are trying to forbid interaction and display hostility.
Other experiences can relate to potty training. After some thorough sessions and positive outcomes for a longer period of time, an accident may occur. Owners may associate this with spitefulness depending on the events that preludes them. Due to them successfully going to the toilet outside, especially for a longer period of time, a lot of owners believe they are purposefully going against their training as revenge. Especially during times of importance. For example, an owner may be hosting a dinner party and therefore does not give their dog as much attention as normal. They may defecate inside as a form of rebellion according to their owners.
So what could cause these behaviors? Two factors that owners swear to change their dog’s happy demeanor to grumpy is a lack of walks and food. If you forget to give your dog their meal or walk then they may become agitated or upset. So it’s understandable to assume that they are annoyed at your for forgetting and are resentful. We sure would be if the roles were reversed!
Are Dogs Capable of Being Spiteful
The answer is not completely confirmed. There is currently no evidence that dogs are capable of it. However, with studies continuing and our understanding of behavior continuously evolving, that could change in the next few years. Currently, it is estimated to be more likely that each situation is a combination of personification combined with misjudgments of behavior. We will look through a few examples to explain how we could misconstrue certain dog emotions as spite.
A common situation we have previously mentioned is dogs defecating inside when they have been recently potty trained. An explanation for this is that your dog has a learning curve just like us. Mistakes can happen, especially for a young dog. Like children, it takes time, patience, and constant positive reinforcement to see that change. Your puppy may have made a mistake and forgotten to go outside. It may also be that they got nervous. Anxiety can not only lead to a dog defecating or urinating, but also to confusion. So perhaps your dog became overwhelmed by external factors, or maybe they became confused hence the one-time slip-up. It is also important to note that illness could influence bladder control.
Another example is a dog turning their body away from you after missing a meal or walk. Often their behavior is not related. Dogs sleep a lot more than we do and they can rest at any time. Furthermore, if a dog now believes that there is no chance for a walk or a meal, they may not try to pursue that goal. This means that they may seem disinterested, or not energetic. To branch even further but into a more obvious answer, if they have not eaten then they may be hungry and lack energy. Hence why they may lie down by themselves.
Dogs and Spitefulness: FAQ
Let’s discuss and explore more about dogs and their suspected spiteful nature through your questions. Take a look.
Every dog has their own personality, and if they seem more reserved that’s okay. It is only when they appear this way because of illness, injury, or a general problem that you need to look at help. Try to examine why your dog is feeling this way and when it keeps repeating. If you have concerns about their behavior, take them for a vet visit or contact a professional behaviorist to analyze where this is coming from.
A dog will not be eating fecal matter out of revenge but for other instincts and reasons. We have an article here on the topic to explain concerns and causes. The timing of your dog eating poop and something that could upset them will be just a coincidence in this case. It is more so that the timing occurs that they could ingest fecal matter and there is an underlying problem to be aware of.
Never punish your dog. Firstly it does not work, secondly, it can make behavior much worse through minimizing trust and increasing fear. If there is a behavior you do not like, use positive reinforcement gradually to encourage the desired behavior instead. Clicker training is also a useful tool to help minimize unwanted behavior. However, you need to be sure that your dog is healthy and happy first. To ensure this you may want to visit your vet or a behaviorist to ensure things are normal.
If there is a behavior you want to change, be sure to avoid punishment and instead use positive reinforcement. Being patient and giving them treats or something they enjoy when they perform behavior you enjoy will help them to learn. Note that treats are not the only thing you can reward your dog with, if they love toys or attention, then use them! Find what your dog loves and go from there.
However, it is important to know that what they are doing is not spiteful. There are so many other explanations for behavior and you need to look into every one to find the right answer. Consider if they could be ill, missing something, or tired.
Dog’s are very sensitive and empathetic creatures. A lot of studies do indicate that they can tell that they have upset you. Sometimes they associate this with an action, but depending on your reaction they may not associate their behavior with your emotional state. Keep on a training routine and you will notice a difference. A behaviorist can also help when you are struggling.
So in conclusion, dogs have not yet been confirmed to be able to be spiteful. Their behavior is more of a coincidence or can be explained differently than the concept of spite. Be sure to be aware of all the other reasons a dog may be expressing this behavior before making an assumption. This allows you to properly understand what is causing their behavior and not jump to conclusions.
Dogs are very empathetic and they will sense emotional changes with ease. If you are feeling negative for forgetting to walk your dog, chances are they may feel negative because of it, and because of your mood. Analyze everything and if in doubt, consult a professional.