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Old 05-22-2020, 09:16 AM
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Why must we perpetually ask dogs who's a good boy/girl?


Why are we compelled to quiz dogs on the existence or identity of any nearby dogs who might be on good behavior?

Does this occur in other cultures? Do different languages have variations on this theme?

Why do we not interrogate other animals? I can't think that the question has been put to horses very often, and they are quite trainable.

Parrots, I imagine, may have some interesting responses!

Poor doggies. Constantly bombarded with queries about who's a good dog, and are you a good dog, who is yes who is. Must get exhausting.
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Old 05-22-2020, 09:21 AM
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Did you ask your dog who’s a good boy today? Scientists say you should do it more often

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It seems like dog’s attention span is greater when the person uses dog-directed speech containing phrases such as ‘you’re a good dog’, and ‘shall we go for a walk?’ and so on. Dogs generally listen to people more and want to interact physically when they hear such language. Scientists found that it is both high-pitched voice and contents of these words that dogs are interested in. Alex Benjamin, one of the leaders of the study, said: “When we mixed-up the two types of speech and content, the dogs showed no preference for one speaker over the other. This suggests that adult dogs need to hear dog-relevant words spoken in a high-pitched emotional voice in order to find it relevant”.

Not only it is interesting to know this, but this is useful for pet owners and professional vets. In order to connect with a dog better one has to use “dog speech”, which dogs seem to enjoy so much. It soothes them and makes them want to interact with person more. So if you have a dog, just go and ask him who’s a good boy, do it now.
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Old 05-22-2020, 11:01 AM
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Poor doggies. Constantly bombarded with queries about who's a good dog, and are you a good dog, who is yes who is. Must get exhausting.
It's the sheer uncertainty that is so draining. Every day human does eventually reassure you that yes, they know it's you who's the good dog. But then they just seem to forget, and the next day the question is asked again, in an endless cycle of uncertainty.

Last edited by Riemann; 05-22-2020 at 11:04 AM.
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Old 05-22-2020, 11:12 AM
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'You were the best."

I think it is because that, while dogs do understand some words, they aren't geniuses. Using the same words is reassuring. They know what "walk" means, and "treat", of that there is no doubt.But do they really know what "good boy" means? Do they do value judgements? No, but they do know it makes them feel good when you look them in the eye and make those sounds.

And why not?
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Old 05-22-2020, 11:15 AM
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Interesting cite, Johnny L.A.. But one must wonder, is the "dog language" tone of voice inherently more pleasing to dogs, or is it more pleasing because they've learned from experience that that tone of voice is often used with praise?
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Old 05-22-2020, 11:19 AM
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I tell my cat that he's a good boy at least once a day. Why? Because his goodness surprises me. He could totally destroy both me and my house if he wanted to, but never does. The worse thing he does is poop right outside of he cat box and bug me for food an hour before dinner time. So I compliment him as much as I can so that he'll keep up the good work.
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Old 05-22-2020, 11:20 AM
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I think it's just a way to frame and build the relationship with your pup. Compare and contrast:

1. my jerk brother in law who is immature and full of toxic masculinity that makes him compelled to always be saying negative things. He can't seem to be kind, but instead he tells his daughter she looks like crap or he'll beat her or other awful things that she (sort of) knows isn't true. He does this with his dog, too. Yelling and calling the dog stupid and such. The dog cowers in fear and obeys out of fear.

2. I am always calling my dogs sugary names like sweetheart and puppy love. And yes, "who's a pretty girl" and "who's a good boy". I praise them for doing normal, doggy things that they'd do anyway whether I was there or not, like peeing when we're on a walk. I praise them for coming when I call, or coming in the door when I open it. There's very little that I yell or scold them for. They don't fear me. They're calm and happy to be around me and I believe they love me.
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Old 05-22-2020, 11:49 AM
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I made a bank deposit yesterday via the drive-thru. I had our 3 dogs with me and they were barking a bit. When the teller finished and was going to send out my receipt, she asked if my dog's would like treats (cheap biscuits). I replied, "no thank you, save them for the good dogs".

She laughed. In reality, I did not want the dog biscuits because my dogs won't eat cheap treats.
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Old 05-22-2020, 12:40 PM
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Dogs are social animals. They want and need constant reassurance of their membership in the pack. Humans express this by verbal means. So, yes, dogs do like being perpetually asked if they are a good boy.

Last edited by Little Nemo; 05-22-2020 at 12:45 PM.
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Old 05-22-2020, 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by purplehorseshoe View Post
Why do we not interrogate other animals?
We interrogate cats about their personal appearance rather than their morals. "Who's a pretty kitty?"

This is because feline standards of morality won't bear close scrutiny, and cats couldn't care less what we think of their morals anyway.
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Old 05-22-2020, 01:00 PM
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We interrogate cats about their personal appearance rather than their morals. "Who's a pretty kitty?"

This is because feline standards of morality won't bear close scrutiny, and cats couldn't care less what we think of their morals anyway.
This is absolutely true. You don't want to dwell on what's happening in a cat's brain. I don't think cat's are evil, they are (compared to dogs) equivalent to sociopaths where the morality of good/bad simply doesn't figure into their motivations. As William Munny says to Little Bill, "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it."
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Old 05-22-2020, 01:32 PM
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I agree with what's been said about cats. I don't bother asking my cats if they are good. They don't give a fuck. I TELL each of them that she is the "best kitty in the WHOLE WORLD" (not when they're in the same room together), and they do not kill me in my sleep. It's a good deal.

I don't tell my dog that she's good girl; I tell her she is the SWEETEST DOG in the whole world, 'cause her name is Sweetie.

Thus we all live in harmony.
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Old 05-22-2020, 01:41 PM
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I never ask my doggies "who's a good boy/girl?" I TELL them! My boy is very anxious, I believe he would have a panic attack trying to decide if he really is good or not, and if maybe there's a wrong answer to the question. And my girl would just lie.
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Old 05-22-2020, 02:04 PM
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I think the way Family Guy semi-anthropomorphizes Brian the dog is utterly brilliant. Most of the time and in most ways he acts completely like a human, and is treated like a human. But then there are just a few core dog behaviors that randomly crop up, like when he see a squirrel, or when the question of whether he's "good" arises and he starts getting anxious and his tail wags. (Also when somebody vomits on the floor.)
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Old 05-22-2020, 02:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Kimstu View Post
We interrogate cats about their personal appearance rather than their morals. "Who's a pretty kitty?"

This is because feline standards of morality won't bear close scrutiny, and cats couldn't care less what we think of their morals anyway.
I wonder if it's also because we tend to think of cats as feminine and dogs as masculine? Kind of like how we tend to tell boys they are smart or brave, and girls they are pretty.
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Old 05-22-2020, 02:18 PM
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I wanna say it's because "pretty" and "kitty" rhyme ... but knowing how many grown-ass adults think all dogs are boys & all cats are girls, I fear the truth.
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Old 05-22-2020, 02:20 PM
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Interesting cite, Johnny L.A.. But one must wonder, is the "dog language" tone of voice inherently more pleasing to dogs, or is it more pleasing because they've learned from experience that that tone of voice is often used with praise?
I was lazy, and eager to get back to work; so I grabbed a link and pasted relevant text. What was actually going through my head when I read the OP was this:

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Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
Dogs are social animals. They want and need constant reassurance of their membership in the pack. Humans express this by verbal means. So, yes, dogs do like being perpetually asked if they are a good boy.
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Old 05-22-2020, 02:36 PM
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Why are we compelled to quiz dogs on the existence or identity of any nearby dogs who might be on good behavior?
How would we know if we don't?
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Old 05-22-2020, 02:37 PM
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I think the way Family Guy semi-anthropomorphizes Brian the dog is utterly brilliant. Most of the time and in most ways he acts completely like a human, and is treated like a human. But then there are just a few core dog behaviors that randomly crop up, like when he see a squirrel, or when the question of whether he's "good" arises and he starts getting anxious and his tail wags. (Also when somebody vomits on the floor.)
I love Mr. Peanutbutter on Bojack Horseman for the same reason. Also, he has a more dog-like personality than Brian Griffin. Mr. Peanutbutter is enthusiastic about everything, and loves everybody. Except the mail man. And that other dog in the mirror.
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Old 05-22-2020, 02:37 PM
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(But seriously, here in Argentina we don't ask them anything, (except when imitating behavior we see in foreign movies), we just tell them they are good, they are pretty and they are the best dogs)
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Old 05-22-2020, 02:46 PM
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duplicate post

Last edited by Frodo; 05-22-2020 at 02:47 PM.
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Old 05-22-2020, 05:18 PM
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My boy is an all black greyhound. I love having the opportunity (which I take frequently) to tell him either:

"Hello, tall dark and handsome!"

Or:

"You know, a gypsy once told me I'd fall in love with someone tall, dark and handsome. And here you are!"
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Old 05-22-2020, 05:29 PM
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I don't ask Pluto if he's a good boy.

I tell him he's a good dog, with the hope that by constant encouragement and reinforcement, one day he will be a good dog.
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Old 05-22-2020, 06:17 PM
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At least someone out there is also interrogating their cats as to their goodness
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Old 05-22-2020, 07:45 PM
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I always took it as a call and response situation. You ask who is a good boy, he acts in a way that calls attention to himself, implying "Me, me!" And then we affirm that he is correct, praising him not only for being good, but smart enough to know it, too.

It just seems like it would be a lot more affirming than just hearing "Good boy!"

And, yes, I am anthropomorphizing and am aware that dogs don't actually understand it that way. But we're discussing our behavior, not theirs.
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Old 05-22-2020, 09:08 PM
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It seems like dog’s attention span is greater when the person uses dog-directed speech containing phrases such as ‘you’re a good dog’, and ‘shall we go for a walk?’ and so on. Dogs generally listen to people more and want to interact physically when they hear such language. Scientists found that it is both high-pitched voice and contents of these words that dogs are interested in. Alex Benjamin, one of the leaders of the study, said: “When we mixed-up the two types of speech and content, the dogs showed no preference for one speaker over the other. This suggests that adult dogs need to hear dog-relevant words spoken in a high-pitched emotional voice in order to find it relevant”.

Not only it is interesting to know this, but this is useful for pet owners and professional vets. In order to connect with a dog better one has to use “dog speech”, which dogs seem to enjoy so much. It soothes them and makes them want to interact with person more. So if you have a dog, just go and ask him who’s a good boy, do it now.
Funny. This reminds me of a friend who was a psychologist specializing in family counseling with troubled kids. He said the most effective thing he did was identify when the kid did something good, and then praise them like crazy. That seemed rare in those families, and seemed to work better than anything else.

He once said that he came home at night and said the same things to his dog that he'd been saying in counseling sessions all day long.
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Old 05-22-2020, 10:08 PM
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My ex-wife used to chide me for using baby-talk with my dog. Turns out that I was instinctively using the tone and language that apparently dogs respond to best. He was a highly intelligent Bernese Mountain Dog (most working dogs are bred for intelligence as well as specific capabilities) who had quite an extensive vocabulary of words he understood -- not just the obvious like "would you like to go for a walk?" but more abstract concepts like "later", meaning he would get what he wanted, but not right now.

He was smart enough to outsmart a health care worker who came to look after my elderly mother when she lived with us. He loved to jump up and try to play with her, sometimes bringing his squeaky-toy to encourage this, but in an effort to get some work done, she opened the patio door and went out on the deck. He naturally followed her out, whereupon she jumped back in and closed the glass door. Next week she came by he once more wanted to play, so she once more walked out to the deck. I have this fond memory of Bernie going out to the edge of the door sill with that beautiful Bernese smile on his face, expressing the sentiment "I know this game. I choose to sit here inside the house and smile at you, out there on the deck like a naive idiot. Your move. What are you going to do now?"

ETA: Forgot to mention this beautiful quote from Aaron Katcher (abbreviated version): "A dog is like a child who never grows old -- always there to love and be loved."

Last edited by wolfpup; 05-22-2020 at 10:12 PM.
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Old 05-23-2020, 12:28 AM
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In Spain we tell them "well done", ""pretty doggie", "good doggie" when they follow orders correctly or anticipate the order, but the question "who's a good doggieeeee?" is something I only see done in Spanish when it's in a movie translated from English. I'm sure there are people who do it, but well, they're likely to be the same ones who think you need to speak to your dog in English.

Last edited by Nava; 05-23-2020 at 12:30 AM.
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Old 05-23-2020, 02:04 AM
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Dolphins are supposed to be quite smart, so the thing to ask them is "Who's a smart dolphin?"

When I was doing some dolphin training some years ago (and yes, we were doing a research project that had to do with how smart they might be), I gave them my college textbook on differential equations. Then each day, I would ask them "Who's a smart dolphin?", and they would tell me what problems they solved the previous evening, including showing all their work (which of course I carefully transcribed).

And that's how I got though my Differential Equations class that year.

We were doing a study of language acquisition in dolphins. I don't think Douglas Adams (of HGTTG fame) knew of our project at the time, because when our dolphins warned us that the Vogons were coming, we understood them immediately.

ETA: And furthermore, there's a stub of a website, ironically named "Doggie", with a picture of those dolphins, here.

Last edited by Senegoid; 05-23-2020 at 02:06 AM.
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Old 05-23-2020, 03:20 AM
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I've always done this with babies too. Who's the best little baby ever, yes, you are!

They - babies and dogs make me feel happy, and that makes them the best, for that moment. You generally only get positive feedback from this behaviour, so it perpetuates.

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ETA: Forgot to mention this beautiful quote from Aaron Katcher (abbreviated version): "A dog is like a child who never grows old -- always there to love and be loved."
There was a scene in Scrubs, a show I never watched often but I saw this one, where two of the characters are thinking about having a baby, and the woman says that it'll be like having a dog, but it grows and learns to talk.
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Old 05-23-2020, 06:30 AM
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I'll stop when they answer.
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Old 05-23-2020, 07:29 AM
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This is absolutely true. You don't want to dwell on what's happening in a cat's brain. I don't think cat's are evil, they are (compared to dogs) equivalent to sociopaths where the morality of good/bad simply doesn't figure into their motivations. As William Munny says to Little Bill, "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it."

As Terry Pratchett put it:

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If cats looked like frogs we’d realize what nasty, cruel little bastards they are. Style. That’s what people remember.
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Old 05-23-2020, 10:26 AM
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Why must we perpetually ask dogs who's a good boy/girl?

Because deep down we don't really know. And we don't trust anyone else but dogs to tell us the truth.
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Old 05-23-2020, 10:30 AM
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I'm sure there are people who do it, but well, they're likely to be the same ones who think you need to speak to your dog in English.
It was, I think, Charles V who pointed out that horses speak German and God speaks Spanish.

In my experience, parrots speak Spanish or French depending.


Cats... well nobody really knows.
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Old 05-23-2020, 10:43 AM
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Because it makes them happy and excited and makes them want to please you all the more. In my experience, praise reinforces good behavior.
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Old 05-23-2020, 10:58 AM
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This meme was going around a while back: When your dog eats your philosophy homework.

I'm sure he's pondering the eternal question, "Who's a good boy?"
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Old 05-23-2020, 11:05 AM
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I love Mr. Peanutbutter on Bojack Horseman for the same reason. Also, he has a more dog-like personality than Brian Griffin. Mr. Peanutbutter is enthusiastic about everything, and loves everybody. Except the mail man. And that other dog in the mirror.
I like the fact that he has a panic room that's called the "thunder room."
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Old 05-23-2020, 12:32 PM
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Why must we perpetually ask dogs who's a good boy/girl?

Because deep down we don't really know. And we don't trust anyone else but dogs to tell us the truth.
Most dogs will sell you out for a hamburger.
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Old 05-23-2020, 01:58 PM
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This meme was going around a while back: When your dog eats your philosophy homework.

I'm sure he's pondering the eternal question, "Who's a good boy?"
Knowing my dogs, they'd get hung up over, "What exactly is good?"
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Old 05-23-2020, 10:47 PM
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I don't ask my rescue dog "who's a good girl" I tell her she's a "good girl". I think she needed to hear it. She had some bad habits when I got her. Positive reinforcement with praise helped out.
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Old 05-24-2020, 03:13 AM
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At least someone out there is also interrogating their cats as to their goodness
Thanks, I needed to kill several hours.
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Old 05-24-2020, 11:31 AM
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I don't ask my rescue dog "who's a good girl" I tell her she's a "good girl". I think she needed to hear it. She had some bad habits when I got her. Positive reinforcement with praise helped out.
Our latest rescue came from a stable situation (well, until things changed and he ended up in rescue), so he didn't have many bad habits. But I think he must have a yard to do his business in, because I don't think he was walked outside much at all. I've been curb training him, and every time I say "Stay" and he stops, I tell him what a good boy he is. I can see in his body language how it affects him. He gets a little extra wiggle in his step. And he's very good now at stopping at curbs.

I'm a huge supporter of positive reinforcement.
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Old 05-24-2020, 11:39 AM
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Most dogs will sell you out for a hamburger.
You're confusing dogs with a certain segment of the human population. Dogs have risked their lives -- and sometimes sacrificed their lives -- for their humans.

The only part of that that is true is that they do love hamburgers. When I had my Bernese, any trip to McDonald's always included a kid's cheeseburger, without the pickle. I would hold it in my hand while he took great big chomping bites out of it.
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Old 05-24-2020, 11:51 AM
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You're confusing dogs with a certain segment of the human population. Dogs have risked their lives -- and sometimes sacrificed their lives -- for their humans.

The only part of that that is true is that they do love hamburgers. When I had my Bernese, any trip to McDonald's always included a kid's cheeseburger, without the pickle. I would hold it in my hand while he took great big chomping bites out of it.
I grew up on a farm and let me assure you 99% of animals will sell you out for food.

We like to anthropomorphize our pets and think "my dog would never do that," but they are still animals first.

As for why we ask "who's a good boy" is we want to reward the dog or have the dog like us. Asking a dog that question in a certain voice is going to result in the animal showing "me, I'm good" response then we can pet it, praise it or feed it.

Which is the behavior WE want to project on the animal. You notice we don't ask, "Have you been bad?"
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Old 05-24-2020, 12:15 PM
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I grew up on a farm and let me assure you 99% of animals will sell you out for food.

We like to anthropomorphize our pets and think "my dog would never do that," but they are still animals first.
"They"? So are we. "x" would never do that reminds me of Charles Dickens' comment about news reports that there was evidence that surviving members of the doomed 19th century Franklin Arctic expedition had ultimately engaged in cannibalism. He opined (paraphrasing) that no English gentleman would be capable of such monstrosity. We are all animals, but the key point here is that the bond of attachment and loyalty between people and dogs is, in my view, unparalleled in the relationship between any other two different species. This is a behavioral and psychological fact that is independent of our natural tendency to anthropomorphize and project our own emotions.
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Old 05-24-2020, 03:33 PM
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You're confusing dogs with a certain segment of the human population. Dogs have risked their lives -- and sometimes sacrificed their lives -- for their humans.

The only part of that that is true is that they do love hamburgers. When I had my Bernese, any trip to McDonald's always included a kid's cheeseburger, without the pickle. I would hold it in my hand while he took great big chomping bites out of it.
The In-n-Out secret menu item is called the Flying Dutchman. It's just a hamburger patty with a slice of cheese melted on it. It's what we get for our dog(s).
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Old 05-24-2020, 04:00 PM
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While we're on the topic, when/where did dogs learn to whine like a little baby to their owner in order to get something they want or avoid something unpleasant like a bath?
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Old 05-24-2020, 09:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carryon View Post
Most dogs will sell you out for a hamburger.
I was idly thinking today about the meme that dogs love their people only because they are a source of food.

Mrs. J. has probably served 90-95% of all the meals our dogs have received. If food was what overwhelmingly mattered, they'd have showered her with 15 times the affection. And yet they've bonded with us equally.

But we don't leave hamburgers on the kitchen counter.
  #49  
Old 05-26-2020, 10:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carryon View Post
You notice we don't ask, "Have you been bad?"
You don't have my dogs
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  #50  
Old 05-26-2020, 02:37 PM
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The question isn't why we praise dogs to their faces. It's why we put it in the form of a question. The obvious answer is that we all think our dogs look like Alex Trebek.
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Last edited by Jeff Lichtman; 05-26-2020 at 02:39 PM.
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