Surely everyone has heard of the old adage, ‘Dogs are man’s best friend’, right? Well, we are here to let you know that this saying couldn’t be truer.
Most domesticated animals, dogs, in particular, are loyal, loving, and more forgiving than any human you might meet. Which is great, because everyone makes mistakes and you may end up feeling the need to seek your canine companions’ forgiveness someday.
So, Do Dogs Forgive?
A Dog does forgive, but he doesn’t hold grudges as it is too complex for his brain. Instead, he lives in the moment and so whatever your believed offense, it is likely to be forgotten by him long before he ever understands the need for forgiveness.
Due to the way dogs learn and think, there are not many instances where forgiveness will even be required. Yes, the majority of dogs are loyal to a fault, this means that there is pretty much nothing that you could do, that your furry best friend wouldn’t forgive you for.
But their thought process differs a bit from our own. Think of it like dealing with a toddler, while they, of course, can feel and understand basic emotions such as fear, love, and distress, they are not necessarily capable of understanding the actual complexities behind them.
They also have a similar short-term memory. Both toddlers and dogs tend to live in the moment, generally not giving much thought to the future or the past.
Do Dogs Understand Apologies?
Apologizing can’t hurt though, right?
While you’re not likely to be able to sit down for a detailed heart-to-heart, well, you could, but it might be a bit one-sided, you can apologize to your favorite furball in a way that he is capable of understanding the sentiment.
Canines understand in a simple, basic way, what it is we are trying to convey to them. They do have an uncanny ability to read a situation, as well as body language, and they are quite well-versed in knowing their humans’ moods.
If it is a one-time offense your dog is more likely to forget the entire situation rather than actually absolving you, at least in the more common meaning of the word.
If it is an ongoing behavior, then your dog is more likely to be conditioned to respond, making apologies null and void.
Apologizing To Dogs
In any event, an ‘I’m sorry’ accompanied by a nice petting session will usually do the trick with all quickly forgiven and forgotten.
As stated earlier, within moments your dog has more than likely already moved on, so a quick bit of love and affection will usually suffice. With the exception of continuous and repeated offenses, your dog isn’t likely to take it to heart.
- Apologize: Dogs understand humans, they might not be able to communicate in a conventional way but they definitely get the gist. The words do not mean as much as the tone. Use a soft, calm, soothing voice.
- Get down to their level: Dogs read body language so you don’t want to have an imposing stance. Get down to eye level with them.
- Cuddles mean I’m sorry: As they say, actions speak louder than words, and a simple cuddle or pat can say more than words to your precious pooch.
- Redirect his attention: When possible, it is better to change the subject so to speak. For example: if you accidentally stepped on his tail, make sure he is okay, of course, but then give him a quick pat and switch his attention to something else like a game of fetch.
- No treats: Treats should be used for positive reinforcements and in this case your dog has done nothing wrong and giving him a treat will just be giving him mixed signals.
The most important thing is to not make a big deal out of a minor offense. Try not to leave a lasting impression.
Keep it short, sweet, and simple.
Dogs aren’t known to harbor resentment or hold grudges. Your best bet is to turn the entire situation into a positive one.
When Is An Apology Probably Going To Be Necessary?
Although it will more than likely be forgotten before you know it, there are certain circumstances that may call for an apology:
- If you yell: Yelling is usually not productive and can be damaging to the relationship. We get it, it happens, but in this case, you’ll want your dog to know that you are sorry and are no longer angry or upset with him.
- If the dog somehow got hurt: If you accidentally step on his paw, you are going to want him to understand that it was an accident. You don’t want to be associated with pain.
- If he seems to be scared: This can cause the most damage. You do not want your dog to fear you. If he is showing signs of fear (ears back, tail between legs, avoiding eye contact), you’ll need to apologize and take the steps to regain trust.
Repairing Your Relationship With Your Dog
In your precious pups’ world, you are a god. You are everything to him, his entire universe. To damage this beautiful relationship can be heartbreaking for both of you.
Luckily, doing so is not in the least bit easy. Your dog is not really built to remember the small infractions, and they don’t typically sweat the small stuff.
However, if you feel that the relationship is in need of some sort of repair, there are simple steps you can take to do exactly that.
- If your dog is hiding or avoiding you, be sure to use a calm soothing voice to try to encourage your dog to come to you. Give him his space and wait for him to make the move toward you.
- When he does approach you, do not make sudden or jerky movements.
- Be sure to use words and phrases they understand and relate to positive experiences like ‘good boy’.
- Once the moment has passed, let it lie. If he is not dwelling on it, then neither should you. Proceed to go about your day.
9 times out of 10 the relationship will not need repairing because your dog has likely not taken the supposed ‘transgression’ to heart.
Don’t make it into a bigger deal than it is, if your dog seems unfazed by it all, just let it be.
Why It’s Never A Good Idea To Physically Punish Your Dog
Decades ago corporal punishment (slapping, spanking) was pretty much the norm when it came to disciplining both children and pets alike.
However, with further research, we have learned that it does more harm than good and the trauma that it causes, can, in the long run, end up lasting a lifetime.
With children of the canine variety, it can take an even harder toll on the relationship because they are not likely to remember or comprehend what it is they are being punished for.
The only thing that physically punishing your dog is going to accomplish, is to associate you specifically, with confusion, anger, and pain.
This is why using positive reinforcement is the healthier and more successful route of discipline.
For instance, if you catch Fido in the act of helping himself to the garbage, a firm no should suffice.
Otherwise, let it go and reward him when he does the opposite of what he was in trouble for (leaving the trash alone when he has access to it).
Examples of healthy discipline include:
- Positive reinforcement. Instead of discipline, you reward him when he is not bad.
- Use your tone. Dogs respond to tone more than words. He can tell if he has done wrong simply by changing the tone of your voice.
- Redirect their attention.
By using these healthy steps you eliminate the need for physical punishment. You are also likely to be saving your relationship with him in the long run as well. Here’s an article on 12 alternatives instead of getting angry at your pooch if you ever do get frustrated.
A bond between a human and a dog is unique and is right up there with one between a mother and her children. That puppy-eyed furball would give his life for you in an instant, paws down, with no questions asked. Their loyalty is unshakable and incredibly deep. When that trust is broken it can be a painful blow (for both of you), sure, but it’s not one that can never be fixed.
Dogs, just like us, have the ability to forgive, in a basic way, and they do so fully and unconditionally. So the question now becomes did you even give him a reason to forgive you, to begin with?
Your idea of a situation that requires the need for forgiveness is likely to differ greatly from what Fido does. Not dwelling on the situation is, ideally, the very best way to go about it. They do not have the capabilities to understand circumstances in the complex way that we do, which means that most of the time your need to apologize is not even necessary.
Don’t make it a regular thing, continue to show him unconditional love and respect, and take good care of him, and he is more than likely going to forget whatever it is that happened, before even fully grasping the need for forgiveness in the first place.