Letter: Can Dogs Experience Regret?

A reader weighs in with a tale of mouth-to-muzzle resuscitation.

Jon Nazca / Reuters

Your Dog Feels No Shame

In The Atlantic’s March issue, William Brennan explained that, according to scientific research, just because a dog looks guilty doesn’t mean it feels that way.

William Brennan writes that it is a myth that our dogs can experience guilt. Okay, but how about regret? My wife and I made the mistake of placing a couple of bowls of dog treats on the floor for our Doberman and our daughter’s Chihuahua. After Babe, the Doberman, ate hers she strolled over and moved Pancho away from his treats by the simple expedient of biting him on the head. This procedure, usually innocuous when performed on a peer, was devastating for Pancho. He stopped breathing and my wife had to push his left eye back in place. She gave him mouth-to-muzzle respiration while I drove swiftly to the nearest veterinarian. The vet was able to restore Pancho to near normal and he lived several years after the incident, though at times he would become catatonic and stare off into space. Because of the rush of events we were not able to scold Babe for her actions. We noticed, though, that for the next six to nine months or so she would walk over to the site of the disaster and sniff it. She would then take herself to the far corner of the room and sit with a look of deep regret or remorse. Curious, wouldn’t you say?

Jerry Bettis
Stillwater, Okla.