Do Dogs Know When They Hurt You?

Dogs are one of the closest animals to us. They understand us the most, but their level of emotions will never equate to humans. 

Evidence tells us that dogs know when we are sad, happy, or hurt. But do you ever wonder how your dog feels when they hurt you?

Dogs know when they hurt you based on your response to their actions.

But do they feel guilty or do they know they have done something wrong? Find out what signs you can look for that show your dog feels bad, and learn whether dogs feel bad when they bite you.

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Dogs know when they hurt you

Do Dogs Know When They Hurt You?

Yes, dogs know when they hurt you.

Dogs know that they have physically or emotionally hurt you based on your reactions. 

As intuitive creatures, they can tell when you are displeased by their playful bite or when you were unhappy that they did not obey your “sit” command.

They base all of these assumptions on your tone and gesture. But they do not understand that something is “morally” wrong. 

That is why it is essential to train your dog to be more perceptive and obedient at a young age. Help them differentiate what is right and wrong so they will be less likely to hurt you.

Do Dogs Feel Guilt?

No, they do not. 

Dogs have no sense of guilt because they do not understand the moral concepts of right and wrong. But they know they do something that upsets us based on our responses. 

Dogs are capable of being scared or ashamed. They also understand what is harmful to humans. After all, they make excellent guard animals and are often our constant companions.

Here’s how dogs’ emotions work. They can be broken down into two categories: Primary and secondary.

  • Primary emotions are basic emotions like happiness and fear. There is strong evidence that dogs feel these emotions.
  • Secondary emotions are jealousy, shame, and pride. Dogs experience these emotions, but not as complex as humans do. They are simply “reactions” or “responses” to you rather than their understanding that something is wrong.

There are a few studies that show dogs can recognize human emotions. However, even if they were true, your pooch would not respond exactly to how you feel. 

Instead, they will respond to your gesture and tone of voice. Your dog knows how to feel embarrassed or regretful of their actions if you communicate the right way.

For example, your dog eats your donut on the dining table. They will not feel guilty because eating other people’s food is wrong. They will feel ashamed because of the way you react. 

Overall, dogs know when they hurt us. But their level of shame may not be as rationally and morally complex as ours. 

More studies are needed to help us understand these complex canine emotions. 

Do Dogs Know if They Did Something Wrong?

Dogs do not necessarily know when they do something wrong. But if you have properly trained them, they can understand that their behavior did not please their owner. 

A 2009 study shows that the shameful look on a dog’s face is not an expression of guilt. It’s a learned response to humans and other creatures.

Dogs do not know the morality of right and wrong. But they can learn what to do and what not to do through positive reinforcement training. 

For example, dogs learn from training that biting is terrible because of the possible punishment. Either you take away the reward, or you punish them. The former is the preferred way.

Signs That Show Your Dog Feels Bad

Look for these signs that show your dog feels bad or ashamed about its mistakes.

Tucked Tail

A dog wagging their tail is a clear sign that they are happy. So, when they tuck their tail, it could be because they feel the opposite. 

When your dog’s tail is right below their stomach, it’s a sign that they are not happy. They sense that your gesture and tone of voice is unhappy, so they feel “bad” or “ashamed.”

But this body language also depends on the breed. You will know your dog best when it comes to their normal “happy” body language.


It’s normal for some dogs to cower, especially puppies, to express anxiety, shame, or fear.

Your dog should not be cowering in fear if they commit a mistake. Some believe that it’s a clear sign of over-discipline and abuse.

Flattened Ears

When a dog’s ears are flattened back against their head, this is also an indication of stress or fear. 

Together with a tucked tail and a cowering posture, this is a sign your dog is uncomfortable with your reaction.

Always be cautious of dogs showing this body language, as they can quickly become aggressive if they feel threatened.


Dogs lick themselves to relieve themselves from physical pain or mental stress. So, when you see them licking their body when you’re upset with them, consider it a sign of stress.

Dogs tend to feel stressed when your behavior suddenly changes. If they notice that you are angry, they may lick themselves in an attempt to feel better. 

Obsessive self-licking is also a sign of extreme anxiety or boredom. Make sure your dog gets enough positive experiences throughout the day, so they won’t hurt you or themselves.

Apology Bow

Another “guilty look” that dogs show is when their head is bowed. 

Also known as the “apology bow,” this gesture is inherited from wolf ancestors who want to be part of the pack. 

Young wolves display this apology to show submission to the leader of the pack. It could be an admission of their wrongdoing or a form of humility and respect to the alpha.

Avoiding Eye Contact

You might also notice that your dog doesn’t make eye contact when scolding them. It’s an evolutionary characteristic that means they are being submissive. 

They avert their gaze from the angry human as a survival instinct.

Dogs also tend to look at your mouth more than your eyes because they check for threatening expressions. It signals conflict avoidance.

Many of these signs are also indicators of fear and stress in dogs. As mentioned, dogs only show these behaviors as a response to you.

Your knowledge of your dog’s body language will help you determine what your dog is saying when you see a combination of these signs together.

Remember to be gentle with your dog when they do something wrong. Use it as an opportunity to train your dog’s behavior in a positive way.

Do Dogs Feel Bad When They Bite You?

No, they won’t feel bad about biting you since dogs likely do not possess a moral compass. Instead, they will feel bad about your reaction.

Dogs understand that their play biting has gone too far when you accidentally scream or flinch. They may feel ashamed about it then do the “apology bow” to show you they are sorry. 

But if you don’t show any reaction to their bite, they won’t know that they hurt you.

If you train your dog not to bite at a young age, they will be aware of their mistake should they accidentally bite you. Proper training also includes knowing the difference between a playful bite and an aggressive one so as not to harm other humans and animals.

Please do this as early as possible so they will grow into gentle adult dogs who respect your boundaries.

Do not get mad or upset with your dog over a playful bite. And you should never yell at your dog when they do something wrong.

Remember that their intention was not to hurt you but to have fun with you. Your pooch does not have the same intelligence as you, so the best you can do is train them.

It’s natural for dogs to bite and scratch as a form of communication. Your job is to let them know what’s right and wrong. Try shouting “ouch” when they bite hard. Or use the “no” command, so they know you don’t like it.

Do Dogs Know How to Say Sorry?

Yes. Dog’s do know how to say sorry to you.

The ability of dogs to feel bad and do better next time explains the strong dog-human relationship. They express their shame with that specific sad look on their face. 

With proper training, dogs can enhance this skill of apologizing in their own way. 

But remember that their emotions are minimal. They might be “apologizing” as a mere reaction to your gesture and tone of voice.

Learn more about whether dogs say sorry or not.

How Do I Let My Dog Know They Did Something Wrong?

There are many ways to let your pup know they made a mistake. But none of them involve punishment.

For example, when your dog bites you, say “ouch” out loud and don’t give them attention. 

If they try to destroy your furniture or shoes, give them a time out. 

You can also take their toys away or use your voice to stop the behavior.

Spanking and shouting will only result in insecurity and aggression. It will also ruin your relationship with your dog.

Check out this guide to letting your dog know they did something wrong.

Who’s a guilty boy? No one! 

Dogs do not have a sense of guilt. But they know how to feel bad about their mistakes depending on your gestures and tone of voice. In short, everything they do is simply a reaction to your actions.

Do not over-discipline your dog because there’s a huge chance that they didn’t mean to hurt you. Find out how dogs say sorry to humans so you can teach them.