In the last 24 hours I posed two questions to the world via facebook as a social experiment:

      1: What does the moral abstract of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ mean to you? What does it mean to know the difference between right and wrong?
      2: What does ‘respect’ mean to you?

Now you may be asking yourselves, “I thought this was a dog blog! What are you on about?!” Well here’s the thing, so very often we hear human emotions and ideas attributed to the behavior of dogs.

  • Oh he has no respect for anyone when he’s out there
  • He know’s he’s wrong, he’s not supposed to do that
  • Look, he’s got a guilty look on his face! He knows!

We’ve all been there, we’ve all seen it. So I asked the questions. What did I find? No two people could agree on a definition for either question and most couldn’t adequately define even their own version. So I ask you this now: If you cannot define something to a degree that it can be explained to another person allowing them to understand your perspective – how can you expect such a concept to be understood by your dog?

Behavior is really quite simple. Animals do what works. Dogs elicit behavior that is reinforced. If your dog wants attention and barking, nibbling, jumping, etc. gets you to speak to them or touch them then you are reinforcing that behavior. They wanted attention so they elicited  a behavior and you gave them attention. It worked therefore it will be repeated.

These human concepts of right and wrong, good and bad, respect, guilt – they are all just that human concepts. Keep it simple:

  • Reward what you want
  • Ignore what you dont want
  • Set your dogs up for success by making the choices you want them to make be the easiest and most heavily rewarded choice they can make!


Questions? Comments? Concerns? Leave a comment below!