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How do dogs apologize to you?

How Dogs Say Sorry to Humans? How Do Dogs Apologize?

Did you come home after a long day at work and find your home in disarray? Were your favorite slippers chewed up, or did you find your couch cushions ripped to shreds? If so, you may be one of many dog owners that have the misfortune of owning a misbehaved fur baby.

However, while you may feel disappointment and anger because of your destroyed items, the love for your puppy is still strong, especially when they put on their sad face with sympathetic eyes.

Once the remorse from the mistake comes, your dog may start to show signs of being apologetic.

Table of Contents

How Do Dogs Express Remorse?

While dogs may not be able to express embarrassment outwardly, they are often able to read emotions and the change in the tone of voice. In reaction to this, they may show changes in their actions.

You may not see the remorse from your dog after they have committed the worst destruction in your home, but often, the feeling of guilt and shame may appear in your dog’s behavior if they have messed up.

Feeling remorseful, your dog may seem a little anxious from the frustration they have caused. Because of this, there may also be many other ways in which your dog will show remorse.

Just like some humans seem to gravitate towards animals, some dogs are better at communicating remorse to their owners.

Apology Bow

Depending on how strong the reprimand caused by their bad behavior is, that reprimand may lead them to hang their head, with a feeling of isolation.

The “apology bow,” a trait picked up by wolves, is used by dogs to tell their owners that they know they messed up and that their owners are more powerful than them.


Depending on the amount of trouble caused or damage done, your dog may express guilt for its wrongdoing. They may feel so guilty that a whimper of worry will come. If your dog begins to feel guilty about their wrongdoing, they could rub against your legs while getting into your space and letting out a whimper.

Chihuahua rubbing legs

Usually, with the repeated whimper of needing forgiveness, dog owners will eventually have a change of heart and forgive their dogs for the mistake by petting them and giving them the assurance they are back in the pack.


Once your dog realizes they have crossed the line, the immediate need to lick you as their apology may begin. Nuzzling next to your neck and licking it is their ultimate mess-up apology that may leave you not only stunned but also help you forget all about the mistake that caused chaos.

A gentle lick is also their guarantee that they want to give you as much attention as possible for being bad and let you know they are submissive.

Big Eyes

Nothing says, “I’m sorry,” like big apologetic eyes with a look of guilt and concern. Usually, when your dog has given you these sad eyes, it is because their behavior has grown unacceptable, and they are trying to find their way back into your good graces.

Avoiding Eye Contact

While many dogs may show their apologetic nature with their big sympathetic eyes, others may avoid eye contact when reprimanded.

Avoiding eye contact can also be a sign of apologizing for their trouble. In addition, the lack of eye contact with a cowered head could make you reconsider being angry at them and help your dog become more aware of when they have crossed the line.

Hiding Their Face

If your dog has destroyed something beyond repair or caused some other type of problem in your home, then the frustration and disappointment that follows may cause them to hide their face in their paws.

High anxiety and stress may also be the reason your dog hides their face after getting in trouble.

The Wagging Tail

If your dog has been causing a lot of trouble lately, it may wag its tail to express its apology. Whether they are playing around or accidentally breaking your stuff, your dog will express automatic guilt if they sense your unhappiness, and one main way to do this is by wagging their tail.

The wagging tail might not be as effective at melting your heart as the big apology eyes or the cowering head, but it will let you know that your dog senses your emotions and is aware that their bad deed has gotten them into trouble. Your dog may also wag their tail if they are anxious or nervous.

The Walk of Shame

After causing all kinds of ruckus in your home and aggravating you, your dog may have finally gotten on your last nerve. Because of this, they may begin the walk of shame, which means their tipped ears, bowed head, and slow walk toward you is their indication of guilt.

This non-verbal acknowledgment of wrongdoing is also their way of apologizing and asking for forgiveness.

To make your dog feel at ease about giving your forgiveness, it is crucial to acknowledge their behavior affirmatively and quickly. You should also greet them with a kind but firm response while assuring you are not angry at their bad behavior.

Dogs Can Read Human Emotions

Over time, you and your puppy may have grown a close-knit bond, which means that they may be able to sense when you are in a good mood or bad mood. Dogs can be very strong at sensing emotions and, in return, may change their emotions to prepare for whatever happens. For some dogs, this could mean being more excited, anxious, and nervous than usual. It could even mean misbehaving.

Unfortunately, dogs may feel some emotion when it comes to behaving in a certain way but their understanding of the extent of damage done or high emotions is not easily understood. Even though your dog may not be aware of every emotion, they are aware of when they are in trouble or being reprimanded. This is why they work so hard to get back in your good graces.

Helpful Tips on Reprimanding Your Dog

With your dog being more than you can handle, you may not always know the best way to reprimand them. So knowing some helpful tips on how to keep your dog in a well-behaved state will help immensely.

Give Them a Time-Out

Did your dog do something bad? If your dog has caused a problem in your home for the last time, but you don’t want to be extremely hard on them, putting them in time-out will let them know that their behavior is unacceptable. Time-out will also help you assess any other issues you may have noticed with your fur baby.

Use a Firm Tone

Even though you may not want to be hard on your pet, it is important for them to know that their bad behavior will not be tolerated, especially if something is broken or someone is injured because of it. So, using a firm and assertive tone is the best when dealing with a dog that has gotten unruly. It’s also important to reprimand them right away so they understand the reason.

Take Away Their Toys

Your dog’s most prized possession is its toys and they expect to continue to keep them regardless of their behavior. However, after your dog has a naughty day with a lot of chaos and disruption, taking their toys away will let them know you are serious about being upset about their behavior. Taking their toys away will also let them know you are the boss.

Final Thoughts

Even though your dog may get on your nerves sometimes, their love and affection for you will never change. While, sometimes, it can be a nuisance to try to make sure your dog stays on their best behavior, understanding their nature and apologetic behavior will be well worth it.


My name is Chris and I am the co-creator of Oodle Life. My wife and I love playing with our active miniature Labradoodle Max. We want all Oodle puppies to be healthy and happy, have lots of fun and be part of the family.

Dogs apologize better than some humans

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April 18, 2017 4:34pm
April 18, 2017 8:59pm

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Who’s a guilty boy?

Dogs know when they’ve screwed up — and their tail-between-the-legs pose is actually a highly evolved “apology bow,” according to CUNY researchers.

Naughty pooches hang their heads and tuck their tails to appear submissive to their owners — a socially shrewd move they inherited from wolves, according the City University of New York biologists say.

“It’s a very interesting phenomenon that goes far beyond the dog-human relationship and actually reveals quite a bit about the nature of communication itself,” Professor Nathan Lents, a molecular biologist, wrote last week in Psychology Today.

Domesticated dogs long ago evolved from wolves, which are so social that they shun badly behaved pack members, according to Lents, author of the book “Not So Different: Finding Human Nature in Animals.”

When young wolves know they’ve done something wrong — like chomping down on a pal or getting too frisky while wrestling — they strike the guilty pose. The cowering bow illustrates to their canine compadres that they’re low-status and sorry, Lents wrote.

These days, Fido and Rover bust out the posture to “apologize” to humans for everything from swiping a sandwich to chewing a shoe.

“Dogs have inherited this behavior, and they will use it after any kind of infraction that results in being punished,” Lents explained.

“As social animals, they crave harmonious integration in the group, and neglect or isolation is painful for them.”

It all boils down to the power-dynamics of friendship, he notes.

“In a sense, an apology is indeed an expression of submission. ‘I was wrong; you were right.’ Nothing could be more submissive than that,” he said.

He added, “While it may seem like a trivial action, it is actually involved in multiple fairly sophisticated social behaviors.”

Ultimately, when dogs strike the pose with owners, they’re asking, “Can we be friends again?”

When dogs hunch into the posture, they also generally stop panting, “smiling” and making eye contact, according to researchers.

“Just like humans rarely misinterpret a smile from a snarl, animals surely understand the subtleties of their own body language,” Lents wrote.

Lents’ research piggybacked off of a 2009 study from Barnard College noting that the “guilty-dog look” pops up most often when owners scold their pooches.

How to Train Your Dog to Say Sorry

Sometimes your dog does things you don’t agree with. Sometimes you come home from work after a long day only to find the trash can’s contents have been emptied and spread across your entire kitchen. Sometimes your dog eats an entire roll of toilet paper just because he misses you so. Sometimes when you go to sit on the couch, your dog is there first when he knows he doesn’t belong there at all.

Most of these indiscretions are forgivable, but wouldn’t it be nice if your dog could apologize to you? If you have a dog who likes to speak, barks or howls, or likes to mimic sounds, train him to say ‘sorry’. You can also train non-verbal dogs to say sorry with sweet or timid gestures. And you can tell him he owes you an apology when he does something like make a poor choice.

Defining Tasks

Training your little guy to speak in word sounds will occur when he is open to mimicking noises and sounds you make. You may not get your dog to say a clear ‘S’ sound. But you can get him to say a sound that is very similar to ‘sorry’ and to understand when you require such an apology. Basically, you will be training your little guy to make syllable sounds that will mimic the word ‘sorry’. This will take some practice, and because this word is two syllables, you may need to teach the first syllable first and the second syllable second before you combine them into what you know as one word.

Another way for your pup to say ‘sorry’ is for him to look down timidly as if in regret or to paw at you as if to reach out with an apology. A puppy is often easier to train than an adult dog, but consider teaching all basic obedience commands before trying this more advanced training no matter the age of your pup.

Getting Started

Because this is an advanced trick, you will need to train your dog in a quiet space where he can focus on the sound of your voice and not other distracting sounds around you. Be sure to have lots of tasty treats for your bud to earn as he learns to apologize to you with a sweet sorry. You’ll want to keep your training sessions short yet engaging to make this fun for you both.

The Non-Vocal Method


Grab your dog’s attention and give him a treat. Have him sit and give him a treat. Ask your pup to lie down and give him a treat. This sets him up for a training session and rewards.

Say sorry

Say the command ‘say sorry,’ and hold another treat down toward your dog’s paw. He should be lying down, so he’ll need to look down to get to the treat.


Once his chin touches the floor, give him a treat.


Repeat this several times getting your pup to associate the command ‘sorry’ with the action of putting his chin down to the floor. Be sure to give him a treat each time he is successful.


Keep practicing asking your dog to say ‘sorry’ with only the command. His goal should be to lie down and put his chin to the floor with that remorseful look. Be sure to reward him with a treat. This will also be his forgiveness because he apologized.

Appropriate times

When it’s appropriate for your dog to apologize, ask him to say sorry. Over time and with practice, he will know when he’s done something worthy of an apology and say sorry all on his own.

The Mimic Method


If you have a dog who will mimic or howl with you, you might be able to get him to vocalize his apology.


Sit with your dog when he’s behaving and spend some time training him. Start by howling and making sounds getting him to howl along with you.


When your dog is howling and talking with you making his own noises, start only saying the word ‘sorry’. Keep practicing these sounds in effort to get him to repeat them.


Say a command like ‘say sorry,’ and wait for your dog to reply with his new word. If he doesn’t repeat the word, you can keep practicing, saying ‘sorry’ in the howling way you two practiced earlier.

Keep practicing

Keep practicing this new word for your pup until he can say it by command. When he’s done something he should apologize for doing, use your command and ask him to say ‘sorry’.


Be sure as he is learning and each time he says ‘sorry’, you give him a treat. This will take some time and effort from you both, so those rewards will go a long way in motivating him to keep learning and practicing.

The With Paw Method


Train your dog to say sorry with a sweet gesture of his paw touching you. This will look a lot a dog giving you his paw, but you can train him to do it when he’s made a poor choice.


Have your dog sit and give him a treat.


Start right away with your command ‘say sorry.’ Hold a treat in your hand but hide it from him. If you don’t have his attention, you can show him the hand and let him sniff the hidden treat.


Hold the treat at his chest level but out away from him. Be patient. He should eventually paw at your hand to get to the treat.

Repeat command

When he paws at your hand, use you ‘say sorry’ command again and give him the treat.


Repeat and practice this several times until he is pawing at your hand when you first use the command. He should do this several times before take the hand with the treat away.

Command only

Once he knows the words for the command and is familiar with the actions that go with the command, begin to use only the command without the hidden treat.

Say Sorry

Anytime you ask your dog to say ‘sorry’, he should put his paw up to shake your hand or place it on your leg. Be sure you are accepting his apology by giving him a treat.

By Stephanie Plummer

Published: 04/17/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

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Training Questions and Answers

1 found helpful

1 found helpful

How to teach my dog to be friendly to other people and also, be calm when he see’s a another dog and listens more often. Without expecting a treat in return?

Caitlin Crittenden — Dog Trainer

1133 Dog owners recommended

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