Do dogs know right from wrong?
Dogs can’t learn right from wrong. What they can learn is the difference between is this safe for the dog to do or not safe for the dog to do. As in, when is it safe for me to steal food off the table? Probably when the owner is not there to see me!
How does morality affect dogs? Does my dog know when he did something wrong?
Dogs are amoral. This means they are unaware or indifferent to questions of right or wrong. We cannot say “My dog knew this was wrong! Why does he still do this?” I am sorry, but your dog did not know this was wrong. He did know that it was safe for him to do that at the given moment.
Teri Pichot wrote in her book Animal-Assisted Brief Therapy that dogs are very in tune with us. They are able to read us like a book, but they are not able to make a moral judgment. She explains that dogs are able to think, but they are not able to think about their thinking. They cannot look back and think about why they did what they did.
When your dog steals food, it is not out of spite, it is simply they did it one time and now they know they can do it. We cannot get upset if it did not happen in front of us.
That is the biggest mistake that we make, to expect the dog to think back to when he did the “wrong thing” and evaluate it. They know they did it, but are unable to make the connection between your current emotional state and their past behavior.
You have to break the habit before it is even formed.