top of page

Dog Training Myth: Your Dog Wants to Please

Dog sitting with flower

I hate dog training. There. I said it. It's a gimmick, and every dog trainer seems to be spouting the same two pieces of nonsense: That your dog only wants to please you, and that consistency is key. Both are bullshit.

Let me explain.

To find out why I hate the term "consistency" when it comes to dog training, check out this link. Suffice it to say that focusing on consistency when you're training your dog or working through your dog's difficult behaviors will only bring you frustration. It pits The Perfect against The Good Enough.

But what really makes my eyeballs itch is when someone tries to tell me that dogs "just want to please". Please who? Do you want to please? I should hope not.

I know my clients are only repeating what they've heard so many times, and it is a way to try to keep perspective on your dog's behavior; they're not out to get you. But I always flip the script and ask my clients if they only want to please me.

Man, the looks I get when I ask that.

Of course my clients don't "just want to please" me. But what they do want is to work together, as a team. They want to get a (difficult) job done: working past their dog's negative behaviors and build a bridge of communication between dog and human.

That is a far cry from wanting to please me.

And the good news is that I am totally down with that goal, too. I actually don't want to "please" my client any more than they want to "please" me. But I'd really like to do is work together and tackle your dog's problems. I'd love to learn more about how you think and how your individual thought processes can be harnessed to help your dog and you bond in a way only you two can. I love sharing those small victories with you, when you start benevolently skeptical of the unique dog training methods Darwin Dogs offers, and end up amazed at the difficult things we accomplish together.

But that's a far cry from us wanting to please each other. And to do that, we need to grab your dog's naturally occurring behaviors and shape those behaviors into the building blocks of a healthy bond between dog and owner, based on trust and empathy.

Training/Shaping Your Dog's Behavior Through Piloting

Dog and human bonding

For the purposes of this post, we will categorize dog behavior into two categories: positive and negative. The goal of your dog's behavior is to accomplish certain tasks, such as getting a treat, or eliminating a (potential) threat. That's where the Piloting comes in.

Think of Piloting the tool you use to shape your dogs behaviors. Or as I like to look at it, it's the method you will be using to "answer" your dog's questions.

Example 1: Your dog jumps on you.

dog jumping on woman

Their Question: Can I jump on you?

Answer: Negative. Your dog isn't being bad, they just have a question that happens to have a negative answer. You will be shaping this behavior towards ending.

Example 2: Your dog remains calm for the mailman.

two dog being calm

Their Question: Should I try to be calm(er) when the post man delivers the mail?

Answer: Positive. This is a behavior you like, and want to shape into recreating.

The behaviors/questions your dog was asking were perfectly normal for a dog. But you will be shaping those behaviors towards your goals by utilizing Piloting.

dog training vs dog behavior

Dog training is merely catching these naturally occurring behaviors and placing either a positive on the behaviors to encourage and recreate these behaviors, or placing a gentle negative on these behaviors to end those behaviors. Piloting is what brings it all together, and is the method you use to "answer" your dog's questions.

chart of dog training vs dog behavior

Dog Training Goals

By framing your dog's behaviors as "questions" rather than acts against you, or them trying to please you, we get to the true goal both you and your dog share: communication. Sometimes things get lost in translation, and need to be repeated a couple (many) times, and other times you just click. But neither of you are against the other; and neither is being stubborn.

Stubborn adj. - Determination in an opposite direction.

Both of you are currently set in your ways, convinced that your way is best. And guess what? You are both correct. Dogs behaviors are perfect if you're a dog, and human behaviors are of course correct if you're a human. So of course you both are going to be stubborn. But as Edward Hoagland put it so succinctly:

In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn't merely try to train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog.

So for the sake of the interwebs and searches, I guess I'll have to continue to use words like "training". Even though it irks me.

But remember, rather than trying to please each other, which gets you nowhere, start by Piloting your dog towards actual goal: teamwork, trust and an unbreakable bond.

And that pleases everyone.

dog paw and human hand

Dog Training vs. Dog Life

By focusing on dog life, rather than dog training, our goals can become so much more attainable and clear-cut. Most of us don't want an obedient dog, we just don't want a dis-obedient dog. Robot-style dogs who are afraid of stepping out of line are for certain types of people I guess.

But that's not my style. That's why I developed the Piloting method of dog training over 20 years ago, a force-free method of dog training and puppy training that didn't rely on abusive shock collars or cruel prong collars, yet didn't constantly bribe with non-stop click-n-treat style dog training. I want a bond with my dog based on trust and communication.

Learn more about our Piloting method of dog and puppy training here.

Find out more about our private in home 30 Day Best Dog Ever and 30 Day Best Puppy Ever training packages here.

Have questions about our puppy training or dog training?

border collie dog

Kerry Stack

Darwin Dogs

Dog Training and Puppy Training

Greater Cleveland Area

Northeast Ohio

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment

Stumpicus Kat
Stumpicus Kat
May 06, 2023

Looking at a dog's behavior as "asking questions" makes everything so much simpler and straightforward! If everyone used this concept communication between human and dog would be so much clearer! Instead of looking at my dog's sudden pull on a walk as an annoying behavior, I just think what she would say if she could talk, "hey, I smelled something interesting over there. I am going to check it out." Depending on the situation, she might get a firm "no, now we are walking." Other times, I might let her smell, but first she has to get calm and wait and then I tell her when she can go smell. Win-win!

Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page