One often-heard shibboleth is that dogs only want to please us. This is mostly not true. Yes, there are some dogs who, by their nature, fit this description but they are relatively few and far between. Dogs in general, like us, mostly want to please themselves. I think this is one of the reasons that we find them so appealing. We identify with them. Probably the reason people say that dogs want to please us is that they do in fact please us, so we assume that pleasing us must be their intention.
One of the biggest ways dogs please us is by being so darned happy to see us. How can you not smile when s/he wiggles and waggles his or her entire body when you walk in the door? But this is because s/he likes you, not because s/he wants to please you. After all what’s not to like? You represent food, water, shelter, companionship, affection, bladder/bowel relief, and fun activities like going for a walk.
If dogs really wanted to please us however, wouldn’t they adopt our perspective when it comes to behavior like staying off the furniture, getting along with others, not pulling on the leash, confining their chewing activities to their own stuff, coming when called, etc? But very few dogs score high in all these areas without some real training.
Okay, I admit that I see major spiritual implications here. I became a dog trainer before I became a Christian and so I couldn’t help but see my own transformation – brought about by my new relationship with God – as a strong parallel to that which dogs experience when they encounter sound training. When I began to see my own behavior from God’s perspective my worldview and behavior changed radically.
Sure, I knew of the things of God before my conversion. I reveled in His creation and its inherent beauty especially as it manifested itself in horses, the seaside, women and sunsets. But to paraphrase the Bible in Romans Chapter 1, although I knew God, I did not glorify Him as God, nor was I thankful, but became futile in my thoughts. All this changed when I began to realize that in order to be in a relationship with my master, I needed to adopt His perspective.
Something very similar happens when a dog recognizes that his owner is in charge. There is something intrinsically “right” about that perspective that gives a dog a sense of joy and peace.