The most common and worst thing is the heartbreaking squeal that your dog makes when you accidentally step on their toe, and they don’t understand that you never meant to hurt them.
or do they have?
When we’re truly sorry, what can we do to best express it in our dog’s language?
While there aren’t any data to draw on yet, I have some insights that lead me to believe that, yes, dogs understand that when we accidentally hurt them, we don’t mean it—and they can even forgive our mistakes.
Accidental Versus Intentional Behavior of Dogs
There is a lot of interaction between Matilda and the cow, and the cow accidentally sits or steps on Matilda. They had fights too, and they really, really wanted to hurt each other.
Matilda is a chihuahua mix who is always being sat or stepped on.
Like most puppies, she can have a big attitude – a must because it can really hurt if a bigger animal steps on her.
So if a cow hurts her, even by accident, she will growl in her face, but only for a second.
The cows backed off and they were back to normal before I could intervene. Under Matilda’s occasional scolding, Kao tried not to step on her sister.
Of course, Cow couldn’t tell Matilda she was sorry, but she stopped what she was doing. Matilda seemed to understand that the injury wasn’t intentional, even though she was upset and probably in pain.
In real fights, Matilda and Kau would sometimes fight over a piece of food, and people would talk a lot. Hucks stood up, and both dogs growled until they were separated. Then for the rest of the day, there will be palpable tension between the dogs.
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It’s worth noting that even resource protection isn’t really a personal vendetta.
When presented with a treat that a dog doesn’t really want, they calmly step aside and let their sister swoop in and take it. When it’s something truly delicious, it’s not personal, it’s the nature of the dog.
when we accidentally hurt our dog
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They do know when we’re mad at them, even if they don’t always understand why.
So when you start living with your dog running underfoot and you accidentally step on their toes – and they let out a blood-curdling squeal – your dog has no reason to think you meant to hurt them.
You didn’t make angry faces, gestures, or other signs like growling, staring, or anything that would suggest you were attacking.
This means your dog is less likely to think you stepped on them on purpose.
How to apologize to your dog
There really isn’t a word for “sorry” in dogs, because between loved ones, it’s not needed.
They might lick their own face to comfort themselves and relieve tension, so we can likewise say in our own words, “I’m sorry!” and comfort them with pets or scratches.
But your dog won’t suspect that you meant to hurt them because they believe you won’t. They know you very well by watching your every move and being there for you.
If they’re in pain, they might wince, scream, or even avoid you momentarily, but it’s not personal. Your dog will instinctively try to avoid any source of pain, but like most dogs, they may soon be on their feet again.
The problem is, dogs risk getting trampled for any chance of getting close to us.
It’s a very annoying, very beautiful thing.