So, you know that sad look your dog gives you when she or he chewed one of your shoes or finished off your sandwich when you turned your back for five seconds? Well, science has revealed why dogs make that adorably guilty face! According to molecular biologist Nathan H. Lents and his article in Psychology Today, dogs inherited this expression from another four-legged creature — the wolf.
He notes that this particular look is called an “apology bow,” and it’s an inherited behavior.
“In wolves, juveniles first begin to display the apology bow as they begin their social integration,” Lents explains in the article. “Besides nursing, the first social interaction that wolves engage in is play, usually rough-and-tumble wrestling. You’ve probably seen dogs wrestle and they have inherited this play behavior from their wolf ancestors.”
Lents goes on to explain how this learned behavior has become their default action for when they’ve done something wrong.
“Dogs have inherited this behavior and they will use it after any kind of infraction that results in being punished. As social animals, they crave harmonious integration in the group and neglect or isolation is painful for them.”
He also points out that there are similarities between the apology bow and the submissive posture that wolves make toward a higher ranking animal. The tail goes in-between the legs, and they hang their head while avoiding eye contact. Just like human behavior, there are differences depending on the situation and personality of the canine.
Because whether they’re behaving like an impossibly perfect creature OR trying to share our dinner, we love all the expressions they throw our way.