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Is my dog being stubborn or manipulative?

Thoughts and feelings dogs aren't capable of, are we doing a disservice to dogs by overestimating their intelligence?

Dogs have always been considered man's best friend. But are we giving them too much credit when it comes to their intelligence? As it turns out, we may be. In this blog post, we'll explore the common misconceptions about dog intelligence and uncover the truth about what our dogs are really capable of thinking. By understanding their limitations, we can build stronger and more meaningful relationships with our canine companions. Join us as we take a closer look at the science behind dog cognition and behaviour, and how we can be better dog owners by embracing their unique abilities.


It's important to understand that dogs cannot "control" their guardians because they do not possess the cognitive ability to do so. Dogs may exhibit behaviours that their owners find challenging, such as jumping up on people or barking excessively, but these behaviours are typically rooted in natural instincts or a history of being self-reinforcing or reinforced and are in no way intentional efforts to manipulate or control their Guardians.

Additionally, dogs may engage in certain behaviours simply because they have been inadvertently reinforced by their guardians. For example, if a dog jumps up on its guardian and the guardian responds by petting the dog or giving it attention, the dog may learn that jumping up is an effective way to get attention. This is not a deliberate attempt to control the guardian, but rather a natural response to the dog's environment.

Accountibility & Morals

It's important to recognize that while dogs are intelligent and sentient beings, they do not have the same level of cognitive ability as humans. Dogs are not capable of understanding complex concepts such as right and wrong, and they do not have the capacity for moral reasoning.

Because of this, dogs cannot be held accountable for their actions in the same way that humans can. When a dog engages in behaviour that is deemed unacceptable or inappropriate, it is often a result of natural instincts, a lack of outlets or minimal training to alter the behaviour rather than a deliberate attempt to do something wrong.

More on Morals

While dogs are capable of learning and responding to certain cues and commands, dogs do not have the capacity for complex moral reasoning or self-awareness.Morals are a human construct that is based on cultural and societal values. Dogs do not possess the ability to understand or adhere to human moral standards.

While they do have their own natural instincts and ways of communicating, these behaviours are not driven by a sense of right or wrong.They do not possess the level of self-awareness that humans do. Dogs do not have the ability to recognize themselves in mirrors or engage in complex reflection and introspection.

This does not mean, however, that dogs are incapable of experiencing emotions or forming bonds with humans and other animals.


Dogs' actions are driven by instinct and conditioning rather than any conscious intent to manipulate their guardians.

When a dog performs a behaviour that benefits them, such as begging for food or attention, it is not because they are trying to manipulate their guardian but rather because they have learned that this behaviour is rewarding.

When a dog engages in behaviour that is undesirable, such as chewing on furniture or barking excessively, it is not because they are trying to "get back" at their guardian or exert control over them, but rather because they are responding to their instincts or have not yet learned more appropriate outlets for these behaviours.

Dogs do not have the same level of self-awareness, intent, or moral reasoning as humans, and therefore cannot be genuinely manipulative in the way that we understand the term. As ethical dog trainers, we need to approach dog behaviour with an understanding of these fundamental differences in mindset and behaviour.


While dogs do experience basic emotions such as anxiety, fear, and excitement, they do not have the cognitive ability to experience more complex emotions such as spite.

Spite is a human emotion that involves intentionally hurting or frustrating someone else. It requires a certain level of cognitive ability and moral reasoning that dogs simply do not possess.

In some cases, dogs may engage in behaviour that is frustrating or challenging for their owner. However, it's important not to attribute human emotions such as spite to the dog's behaviour. Instead, it's important to approach the behaviour with a willingness to understand the root cause and to provide appropriate training and reinforcement to encourage positive behaviour.

It's important for dog owners to approach training and behaviour modification with empathy and a desire to understand their dog's behaviour. Dogs communicate and learn differently than humans do.


Dogs do not possess the same level of cognitive ability as humans, and they do not have the capacity to be intentionally obstinate or defiant. Rather, when a dog appears to be stubborn, it is usually because the dog is not understanding what is being asked of them.

It's important to remember that dogs have their own ways of communicating and learning, and it's up to the guardian to figure out the best way to communicate with their individual dog.

In some cases, dogs may also be reluctant to follow commands if they have had negative experiences associated with the behaviour. Dogs are not capable of intentionally being stubborn or defiant, and as ethical dog trainers, it's our responsibility to find ways to communicate effectively with them and help them learn and thrive in human society.

Being Nasty

The term "nasty", when applied to dogs, is not an accurate or helpful description of behaviour. Dogs, have their own natural instincts and ways of communicating. When a dog engages in behaviour that is deemed aggressive or unpleasant, it is usually a result of a breakdown in communication than a deliberate attempt to be "nasty."

Aggression in dogs always has an underlying cause. This can include fear, anxiety, stress, frustration, pain or a lack of socialization or punitive training. Aggression can also be a result of past experiences, such as trauma or abuse. It's important to approach aggression in dogs with empathy and a desire to understand the root cause of the behaviour.

It's important not to view dogs as inherently "nasty" or aggressive. Instead, we should approach their behaviour with a willingness to understand the root cause and to provide appropriate training and reinforcement to treat it.

It is important to recognize that overestimating a dog's intelligence can lead to unrealistic expectations and ultimately lead to frustration for both the dog and the owner and a breakdown of communication. It is crucial to understand a dog's natural behaviours and limitations, as well as their individual personalities, in order to train them effectively. By setting realistic goals and working within a dog's abilities, reward-based training can be an incredibly effective way to train dogs and build a positive relationship with them. Ultimately, it is important to approach dog training with patience, understanding, and a willingness to adapt to each individual dog's needs and abilities.

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