It is in regard to the type of emotions that can be felt and expressed. Studies of emotional capabilities in canines
tell us that with both humans and dogs alike, not all emotions are present at birth. In fact, both newborn babies and newborn puppies only have one: Excitement.
As they mature, the ability to feel and express more emotions develop and they do so in a particular order: Excitement, distress, contentment, disgust, fear, anger, joy, suspicion, shyness, affection and love. By the one-year mark in humans all of these emotions are present. With medium sized breeds such as the Boxer dog, these are all present by the 5 to 6-month mark.
And this is where things split off. Humans continue on to develop: Shame, pride, guilt and contempt. Studies suggest that dogs do not reach that point.
It’s a bit hard to believe that Boxer dogs (or any other breed) do not have the ability to feel guilt; they certainly play that off well after ripping apart an owner’s favorite pillow. And pride? Many appear to walk proudly and to that end, the AKC breed standard mentions the word ‘proud’ in regard to the Boxer dog: "The gait is firm yet elastic, the stride free and ground covering, the carriage proud".
So, what does this mean? Well, there are 3 things to note:
Pride develops at the 3-year mark in humans. Studies show that canines stop emotional development at ‘approximately’ the 2.5-year mark equivalent. The key here is the word ‘approximately’, which means that dogs can develop further out and these figures are rough estimates.
Dogs are proven to feel shy (it is the 8th emotion to develop), and shyness can be seen as being the opposite of confident. Therefore, one could argue that if a dog is not feeling shy, he is feeling confident. There is a very fine line of distinction between confidence and pride. Studies tell us that a dog can feel the former but not the latter. With pride, a person crosses the line of feeling good about himself and ego starts to play a role.
In regard to a Boxer dog looking or acting guilty after doing something wrong, this is not in an owner’s imagination. Canines do
change facial expression and body stance in reaction to something… however, studies suggest that the ‘something’ is not something that the dog did wrong, but rather how his owner behaves/speaks/act in reaction to it.