Do Dogs Forgive? – Palmy Paws (2022)

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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.

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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.

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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 ok, 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:

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  • 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 sureto use a calm soothing voice to try to encourage your dog to come to you. Givehim his space and wait for him to make the move toward you.
  • When he does approach you, do not make sudden orjerky movements.
  • Be sure to use words and phrases they understandand relate to positive experiences like ‘good boy’.
  • Once the moment has passed, let it lie. If he isnot 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.

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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 thanwords. He can tell if he has done wrong simply by changing the tone of yourvoice.
  • 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.

Final Thoughts

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 the 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?

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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.

Do Dogs Forgive? – Palmy Paws (1)


Do dogs forgive and forget? ›

If you show him affection once more, he will wag his tail, jump all over you, and pet you like nothing ever happened. So, if you are worried that your fur baby will stay mad at you forever, don't be. He is designed to forget the bad things you do to him. In short, dogs do forgive but not in the sense of the word.

Should you get angry at your dog? ›

Yelling or hitting your dog. It's a human reaction to vent your frustration towards its “cause” aka your dog's reactions, but doing so will never help you or your dog overcome your training obstacles. Usually, it will only make things worse.

Can you hurt a dog's feelings? ›

The short answer to this question is yes, you can hurt your dog's feelings. Dogs spend their entire lives being surrounded by their humans. As dog owners, how you act towards your dogs leaves a significant impact, whether emotionally or physically.

How do I apologize to my dog? ›

If you want to apologize to your dog, talk to them calmly and soothingly with a slightly high-pitched voice, the one we tend to use when talking to babies or puppies. You don't have to say "sorry", but the words that you usually use to reward your dog when they behave correctly, such as "well done" or "good boy".

Will my dog forgive me if I hit him? ›

So, yes, your pooch will forgive you if you slip up one day and smack them. Just don't make a habit of it, or you could permanently damage your relationship. Will my dog forgive me for hitting him? Yes, if it was done on the spur of the moment and doesn't happen frequently.

Does a dog remember if you hit them? ›

If they are hurt, do they harbor anger, resentment, and negative feelings in their canine psyche? Yes, in some capacity, dogs remember something negative that caused them harm. Dogs growl at certain people, wag for others, and snarl at a dog who barked at them one time on a walk.

Is yelling at a dog abuse? ›

Emotional dog abuse is yelling, screaming or shouting forcefully at a dog when the situation doesn't call for it. Effective behavioral training may involve firmly bellowing, "No!" when the dog is behaving poorly, but if there is no bad behavior going on, the owner should not be trying to intimidate the dog.

How do you punish a dog for snapping? ›

No scolding, no yelling, and no physical punishment. Gently take hold of her collar, lead her to a quiet room away from the action, and leave her there with a bowl of water and a chew toy. Your visitor may expect you to punish your dog, even “alpha roll” her, if he's watched a certain television show.

How do I tell my dog he did something wrong? ›

How to Correctly Tell a Dog Off! Dog Discipline VS. Punishment! - YouTube

Will my dog ever trust me again? ›

Dogs are generally forgiving and may still trust you after you hit them, especially if this was an isolated incident. That said, dogs also build up a strong association with pain and fear so you may need to take steps (and be patient throughout the process) to show your dog that you aren't someone to be scared of.

How long should you stay mad at your dog? ›

According to many dog trainers and behavioral experts, you should not be mad at your dog for longer than one minute. Even if that seems like a tiny duration, it's important to keep in mind that while dogs are intelligent creatures they realistically have the attention span of a 2-3 year old human child.

How do dogs feel when you give them away? ›

It's not unusual for dogs to grieve the loss of a person they've bonded with who is no longer present. While they might not understand the full extent of human absence, dogs do understand the emotional feeling of missing someone who's no longer a part of their daily lives.

Can you lose your dog's trust? ›

You can lose your dog's trust by being inconsistent as well. Dogs are innocent, if a little mischievous at times, and their misbehavior is not malevolent. The owner should make clear what kind of behavior he expects from his dog. Discipline should be firm and consistent without harshness or maliciousness.

What does it mean when a dog licks you? ›

Licking is a natural and instinctive behaviour to dogs. For them it's a way of grooming, bonding, and expressing themselves. Your dog may lick you to say they love you, to get your attention, to help soothe themselves if they're stressed, to show empathy or because you taste good to them!

Do dogs get sad when punished? ›

Another cause of depression in dogs is punishment. Animal behaviorists say when dogs are repeatedly punished with shock collars or other physical means, dogs come to feel helpless. Not only can it cause aggression in dogs, but it can also cause dogs to withdraw.

What are the 3 ways your dog asks for help? ›

Generally, there are three primary ways that you can tell when a dog needs your help: physiological changes, behavioral changes, and signs of pain or discomfort.

Does a dog know when it has done wrong? ›

Our pets do understand that certain actions violate family rules and will result in certain reactions. Cause and effect is a great lesson! Pets don't have to feel guilty to be well-behaved. But even if pets do feel guilty sometimes, let's not assume that their guilty looks are always based on their behavior.

Why are dogs loyal to abusive owners? ›

Although dogs are extremely loyal, part of that loyalty comes from a self-preservation instinct, as they know that if their owner is hurt, their food and shelter arrangements are at risk. If you own a dog that comes from an abusive background, you may notice that he is extra protective.

Why should you not yell at your dog? ›

Your pooch needs to be trained with love and compassion. New research suggests that adversely training, e.g. yelling at, your dog could cause long-term psychological harm. Dogs that had undergone adverse training methods were found to have higher cortisol levels in their saliva and displayed more stress behaviors.

How long is a dog's memory? ›

Dogs have a very short short-term memory. "Dogs forget an event within two minutes," reported National Geographic, citing a 2014 study performed on various animals from rats to bees.

How do you correct a dog? ›

The only acceptable and approved corrections are leash/collar corrections and verbal correction. Correction should only be given when the dog fully understands the correct behavior so they can offer that behavior instead of the unacceptable behavior.

How do you discipline a dog after something is wrong? ›

First, stop your dog in the act of whatever he's doing, then give him a different, pet parent-approved option. For example, if you walk into a room and notice him chewing your shoes or hairbrush, swiftly tell him "No!" and take the item out of his mouth. Once your dog is calm, present him with an actual chew toy.

Does hitting dog on nose work? ›

A traumatic nose injury in dogs can cause bleeding and pain that may require veterinary attention. Dogs should not be tapped, smacked or punched on the nose with the hands or other objects for any reason.

What can I do instead of yelling at my dog? ›

Yelling also can make your dog less likely to respond to your commands, which makes you more frustrated and likely to yell. New research and most dog-training experts recommend you stop yelling at your dog and instead use a soft, quiet voice when you talk to your dog.

Do dogs get mad at their owners? ›

The short answer is yes, it's possible for your dog to feel upset. But here's the good news: Your dog isn't mad “at” you in the way that you're imagining. According to PetMD, while dogs definitely feel emotions, they don't associate blame with those emotions.

Do dogs remember when you get mad at them? ›

4. Your dog will know when you are mad. Dogs hate to disappoint and can sense the emotions and body language that comes with an upset "parent". When you are upset with your dog and he gives you those "sweet puppy dog eyes" he knows that you are upset and is hoping to change things.

Do dogs Remember when you yell at them? ›

Dr. Haywood highlighted that it is important to remember that dogs do not react to things in the same way as humans. So while a human knows what it means when someone is shouting or speaking with an angry tone of voice, a dog doesn't.

Will my dog think I abandoned him when I go on vacation? ›

Our dogs will not necessarily think we abandoned them if we go on vacation. A secure and well-adjusted dog will also cope well if you are gone. Nevertheless, for some dogs, the experience can be distressing and they may become distressed, even refusing to eat while you are away.

Why do dogs side eye? ›

It's actually called whale eye, and it's your dog's way of telling you to “Back off.” Whale eye usually foretells some kind of aggression. It can occur when a dog is guarding something carefully, be it a chew toy, their favorite hooman, or (most often) food, and suddenly feels threatened.

Do dogs have memory? ›

Dogs—like great apes and humans—may possess "episodic memory" Dogs, like humans, may be able to consciously recall personal experiences and events.


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