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May 4, 2024 5 mins

The photos on social media are arguably the cutest, but how do dogs feel when we dress them up? Can dogs feel emarrassment? Learn what science has to say in this classic episode of BrainStuff, based on this article: https://animals.howstuffworks.com/pets/do-dogs-get-embarrassed.htm

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
Welcome to brain Stuff, a production of iHeartRadio. Hey brain Stuff,
Lauren Vogelbomb here with a classic episode from our archives.
In this one, we answer what is perhaps the most
important question in these our social media times? Are dogs
actually embarrassed when we put them in those adorable costumes?

(00:25):
Hey brain Stuff, I'm Lauren Vogelbomb, and I suspect that
some of you love dogs, some of you might even
like dressing them up for warmth or fun. Halloween costumes,
holiday outfits, birthday dresses, boots, scarves, wigs, painted nails, more boots.
Some of these outfits are decidedly sillier than anything their
owners would wear, which leads us to the question of

(00:45):
the day. Do dogs get embarrassed when we dress them up?
In humans, embarrassment is an emotion, just like love, guilt, sadness, fear,
or happiness. When someone we know dies, we feel sorrow.
When people make fun of us, we feel humiliated or embarrassed.
When something good happens, we feel happiness. Humans have six
basic emotions love, joy, surprise, anger, sadness, and fear. Some

(01:11):
researchers argue that we display only four basics, happy, sad,
a combo of afraid and surprised, and a combo of
angry and disgusted, but that's a topic for another day.
Whichever set you go by, these primary emotions then branch
out to secondary emotions such as pride, relief, and optimism.
Tertiary emotions include excitement, loneliness, and embarrassment. Yet emotions are fleeting,

(01:35):
They last for only a brief time. We don't stay
embarrassed forever, or at the very least, we shouldn't. In humans,
Embarrassment is a so called self conscious emotion, just like guilt.
We get embarrassed when we trip or fall, when we
burp at the dinner table, or spill a cup of
coffee on a nice white shirt as a crowd of
people look on. But do dogs feel the same emotions

(01:56):
that we do. It's a good question, and one that
scientists have been welling over for you years. If you're
a dog owner, there's no question that dogs become emotional.
They wag their tail when they're happy, they look guilty,
ears back head down when they pee on the rug
or chew a book to shreds. We also know that
they can get jealous of a new addition to the house,
like a baby or another dog, or of the cat

(02:17):
who claims their favorite person's lap. Still, many scientists have
yet to come to grips with the idea that dogs
experience emotions like humans. While some argue that dogs do
feel a range of emotions, guilt may not be one
of them. Instead, dogs may simply be reacting to their
owner's body language. In the opinion of some, dogs experience
only instant reaction emotions fear, joy sadness, and anger, which

(02:42):
brings us back to whether dogs get embarrassed. Their scale
is certainly different if they do, given that they don't
have our hang ups and thus aren't embarrassed by things
that would mortify most humans, like getting caught scratching or
licking decidedly in delicate itches in public. We spoke via
email with doctor Jessica Pierce, a bioethicist who has written
extensively on the psychology of dogs and cats. She said,

(03:05):
as far as I know, there's been no systematic research
into whether or not dogs feel embarrassment, but I would
guess that they do. That said, when we dress them
up as lobsters or Donald Trump for Halloween and they
put their ears back and tuck their tails down, it
may not be embarrassment that they're feeling. They might simply
find the costumes uncomfortable or unfamiliar, and they might be
upset by or reacting to the fact that all the

(03:27):
people around them are laughing and acting excited. If she
had to bet on it, Pierce thinks dogs probably experienced
the same basic emotions as humans. She said, dogs most
certainly experience what are called the primary emotions, such as anger, fear, sadness,
and joy. They also likely experience a whole range of
secondary emotions, including empathy, guilt, and embarrassment. As for which

(03:49):
emotions dogs lack, I wouldn't feel confident putting anything on
that list. My guess is that the more closely scientists
study the emotional experiences and capacities of dogs, the more
they will find. So should you dress your dog up
to put up Bluntly, if you would feel humiliated dressed
up as a lobster or Donald Trump, then chances are
your dog will too, Pierce said, when people ask me

(04:12):
whether it's mean to dress our dogs up in costumes
or fancy sweaters, my answer is ask your dog. If
your dog seems uncomfortable, then take the costume off. After
quickly taking that cute photograph to posts on social media.
If your dog doesn't seem to care, or perhaps even
seems to like being fancied up, then it's fine. Today's

(04:34):
episode is based on the article do dogs get embarrassed
When We Dress them up? On how stuffworks dot Com?
Written by John Partano. Brain Stuff is production of iHeartRadio
in partnership with how stuffworks dot Com, and it's produced
by Tyler Klang. But for more podcasts from my heart Radio,
visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen
to your favorite shows. H

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