The working relationship and bond between dog and dog owner can be considered sacred. That’s why it’s essential to nurture the relationship with proper boundaries, training, and disciplinary measures. At the heart of it, dogs always seek to please their owners.
Do dogs want revenge?
No. According to scientists, dogs do not actively seek revenge. You’ll get different answers if you ask multiple dog owners, especially over the last several decades.
People who disagree might cite that dogs do indeed want revenge, and to get it, they will go to any length necessary. Alleged retaliation includes but is not limited to pawing at you when you’re sleeping, stealing your food, barking incessantly, and even breaking into your home to destroy everything they can find.
They also like playing dead for you to start petting them again, only to jump up and scare you all over again. Some people believe it’s just their way of getting back at humans who have been torturing them for centuries with “stupid things” like leashes and choke collars, which are meant more as punishment than anything else.
According to dog behavior experts and studies that have been done, none of this is true, however. Dogs don’t feel guilt, spite, or seek revenge.
Why does my dog try to get revenge?
Your dog is not trying to seek revenge. Instead, we often attribute human emotions and expected human social behaviors to dogs when they act similarly or think they should be behaving as we do under certain circumstances. When you see your dog chew something you love, it’s because you left it out, and they took advantage of the opportunity.
When your dog pees on your bed, it’s because you didn’t potty train enough or because you waited too long to let them out. If you just took them out and they didn’t potty outside but inside, they could actively be practicing their marking behavior. In their mind, this is all perfectly acceptable and normal. However, it has nothing to do with revenge.
Do dogs remember if you hurt them?
Yes. Dogs remember if you hurt them or treat them harshly. Dogs learn and remember things through emotional stimuli, similar to humans do. If a dog, for example, likes going for car rides, which causes joy for them, they will get excited every time they think they get to go for a ride in the car.
If you feed them like clockwork and praise them every time they come to eat the food, they will remember these events and associate them with good emotional feelings.
The same happens with negative behaviors or bad emotional experiences. A dog can sense intention. For example, have you ever noticed the difference between when you accidentally stepped on their tail or paw, how they treat you when you suddenly turn into a pile of mush and apologize incessantly, vs. how they react when you’re outraged and the strike you inflicted caused them physical pain?
In the first instance, they can tell you didn’t mean it, and they quickly forgive you. In the latter, they react in a scared, submissive, shocked, and sometimes confused manner.
Do dogs remember when people who they haven’t seen in a long time have hurt them?
Yes. This phenomenon is also true for people they haven’t seen in a very long time. This behavior is also shown in dogs who may not see the exact person who hurt them, but instead, anyone with a similar make and body builds. You’ll often see this in rescue dogs who only prefer women over men or adults over children.
For example, although cheerful, happy, and laid back, one rescue dog would become fearful and distrusting of all young boys between the ages of nine and twelve. During walks, he would growl at these young people, although he had never met them. It was supposed that someone of that age and gender was not very nice to him in his previous life.
Another rescue dog exhibited violent behavior in the presence of black shoes, which is interesting because dogs are color blind. The dog would not get angry and snappy with any other type of shoe, just black, closed-toe shoes, especially if they were boots. It was understood then that someone from his past wearing black boots may have harmed the dog.
How can I get my dog to forgive me?
There are only two ways to get your dog to forgive you: the quick way and the long way.
The Quick Way of Getting Your Dog to Forgive You
If the hurt or supposed injustice just happened, stop what you’re doing and address it immediately. Get physically down to their level so you can look them in the face, but don’t spend a lot of time staring them down in the eyes as they see this as a sign of intimidation.
Apologize profusely and immediately check the hurt area. Checking the hurt area is extremely important if your dog is a smaller breed, and it may have sustained a hairline fracture if you stepped on them with your total weight or similar.
The dog should show signs of coming around, like licking your face, wagging its tail, or approaching you for more cuddles and hugs. Don’t be ashamed to break out the treats or their favorite chew sticks if they don’t. Once you’re convinced, you don’t need a trip to the vet, grab one of their treats and apologize some more.
This combination usually fixes the situation. If the dog is miffed with you, their tune has usually changed by the time they are done chewing on the chew stick you gave them. Chewing relieves stress, so it’s a win-win.
This methodology doesn’t work if the pain has already happened and some time has passed. With dogs, you must address injustices or negativity right away for them to remember. Addressing negative behavior is true for training, and it’s also true when you accidentally hurt your fur baby.
The Long Way of Getting Your Dog to Forgive You
How long this takes depends on the severity of the injustice or the harsh treatment you provided, whether it was a one-off (your first time it’s happened) or if this behavior from you is a regular occurrence. If this was a one-time, one-off occurrence, hope the dog wasn’t emotionally impacted and continue your lives as though it never happened.
Suppose you and your dog find yourselves in similar circumstances, and you immediately see your dog shrink, pull its ears back, lick its lips and look at you from the side, or roll over on its back, even though you did not speak or feel harshly toward it. In that case, you’ll know your last interaction made an unfortunate lasting impression.
In this case, the only way for your dog to forgive you is for them to learn to trust you again, the old-fashioned way. There are no shortcuts. You must put in the work. You must modify how you discipline your dog and handle the situation that has now had an impact.
Every time that situation comes about again, or those similar circumstances show up for the dog, you must be mindful of how you react, and you then must respond in a non-angry, non-violent way, consistently 100% of the time. If you do good 15 times and on the 16th time, you blow your top, your dog will remember the original injustice, and any trust built in this area will be gone.
If you need help with any part of this, you must seek out the help of a veterinarian or a qualified dog trainer for assistance. Suppose you keep having problems keeping your emotions under control. In that case, consider visiting your primary doctor to rule out any medical issues that could affect your social behavior.
Consequences of Failing to Get the Dog to Forgive You
In extreme cases where this cannot be resolved, the relationship between owner and dog may become very tenuous and strained. If you, as the owner, cannot remain consistent in your behavior toward your dog in a way that does not make them feel threatened or scared, it may be time to consider rehoming the dog to a different home.
Your dog deserves to live in an environment of trust, security, and safety. While this can be extremely difficult (as we know the entire relationship is not bad), it may be the best thing for both of you.