We know! Their tail goes between their legs, they lower their body and give you the saddest eyes you ever did see but contrary to this (and a multitude of YouTube Videos), dogs do not feel guilt!
Firstly, there are Primary and Secondary Emotions. Primary emotions is feelings of "happiness", "sadness" and "fear". Secondary emotions are more complex, such as "shame" or "guilt". Scientists have established, secondary emotions require a mental sophistication that is beyond animals.
Humans tend to mis-attribute dog emotions based on human emotions. The “guilty” look is a prime example of this.
The look is distinct: The dog cowers, showing the whites of its eyes while looking up at you. Maybe it pins its ears back to its head, yawns, or licks the air. These are all characteristic signs of FEAR and submission in a dog.
It is not "guilt" that makes your dog cower. It is YOUR body language and tone. How many YouTube clips have you seen when the owner is pointing and saying "DID YOU DO THIS?!". The change in tone alone is enough to cause your dog to submit.
How about those times when your dog acts guilty before you start scolding him? It is a learned association. In other words, the last time you scolded him, there was couch fluff all over the place. So now when there’s furniture fluff, he associates it with being scolded and automatically starts his submissive dance.
MYTH BUSTED! Stay tuned for more!