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Not real sure.

It appears my some of my dogs have a will to please me, do what I say and make me happy. But I'm not quite sure what they think and they would not reason it like that.

It is just something I/others label them as having. Because it seems as though they are trying to please us and are happy when we are happy.

I don't have a way to prove or disprove it.
 

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I think "will to please" is roughly the same thing as being highly motivated by attention and affection from the handler.
 

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Solely to please and not for any gain? Fiction, IMO. That's one of the reasons I love dogs - they are purely selfish and opportunistic. Figuring out what will motivate them to do something you ask them to do is the fun part of training and living with them.
 

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I don't think she does things to please me, I think it is for the positive attention and praise.

But when talking about her I would describe her as "eager to please" even though it isn't the right description.
 

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I think "will to please" is roughly the same thing as being highly motivated by attention and affection from the handler.
That sounds like a good way to describe it.

But what about when they don't get praise. Do they do it in the hopes of attention, praise, affection, ect?
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
But what about when they don't get praise. Do they do it in the hopes of attention, praise, affection, ect?
Good question! Considering this, I'd like to add an addenda to the original question. When considering the fact or fiction of the 'will to please' in dogs include a reference to how you define a good working relationship (a marriage if you will).
 

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That sounds like a good way to describe it.

But what about when they don't get praise. Do they do it in the hopes of attention, praise, affection, ect?
Maybe to avoid punishment, to avoid making the "wrong choice," etc. Or maybe they just construe eye contact as a reward/affection? Ya never know...
 

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My dogs like to please me because if they do they get things they enjoy from me. Some dogs which don't care about pleasing their owners tend to try and find other ways to get things they enjoy.
 

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There could also be certain behaviors that the dog finds self-rewarding. My dog, for example, will go through weave poles even if she knows I have no treats. She also enjoys giving her paw.

Also, all behaviors were most likely linked with a reward in the beginning during the teaching process.. so now, after the behavior is proofed, the association remains.
 

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But what about when they don't get praise. Do they do it in the hopes of attention, praise, affection, ect?
Some dogs are incredibly tuned to subtle changes in their humans' body language. Many of the "willing to please" dogs are this way. It is possible that some dogs find these subtle changes rewarding enough.

See: Clever Hans Effect.
 

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Good question! Considering this, I'd like to add an addenda to the original question. When considering the fact or fiction of the 'will to please' in dogs include a reference to how you define a good working relationship (a marriage if you will).
Poca's view: Mommy and daddy work. I benefit.
Our view: We work. She benefits.

The relationship seems to be working very well for Poca....

"Good working relationship" for me = we all get what we want and we work to get the others to give it to us. For the humans, it may also involve offering things just because we love the other human and/or the dog, regardless of whether we get anything in return (although I think you could argue that you do get something - regard, affection, etc.). I've never seen the dog offer anything without expecting something in return.
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
Addenda 2
I've never seen the dog offer anything without expecting something in return.
An anecdote to help consider the possibility, and one you may even recall.

I've told this true story about a silver-backed gorilla who was taught to open a door to an adjoining enclosure. The secondary enclosure was used when the primary was being cleaned, and the cleaning crew were not always familiar to the gorilla. So for ease the gorilla was taught to open the door and enter the secondary enclosure on cue. Safe for gorilla, and safe for the cleaning crew.

One day the gorilla's handler was teaching the gorilla some other behavior, and bananas were used as the primary reinforcer. When she was done she opened the door to the secondary enclosure for him to enter. What did the gorilla do? He offered her the banana he just earned.

I know we humans like to think we're the smartest ones in the equation, but if a gorilla can get reinforcement, what of the possibilities that a dog behaves to reward us?

I've asked this before... When my dog sits and waits patiently by the door for a walk, does she do it because of the simple pattern leading to reinforcement? Or does she do it to 'please' me? Or does she do it because doing so is reinforcing? Or all 3 reasons?

Think of that in how you define a good relationship and the 'will to please'.
 

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I think humans have some will to please (as in a marriage), but most of the time, when we do things for others there is some element of self-gratification. Even giving anonymously to a charity makes us feel good about ourselves. It's self-reinforcing. Not usually purely to please someone else.

I think, for the most part, dogs do what they do to please themselves. To get the reward.

Are some dogs "eager to please"? Yes. But not simply for our pleasure. They want the praise, the pets, the acceptance, the treat. Some are more willing to do whatever it takes, but in the end, it comes down to them wanting something. So, for the most part, I think they do it for them, just as humans do. A dog who's "eager to please" is most likely a dog who wants the reward the most. So, in a way, we could say that the dog who's so willing to please us is the most "selfish" one in the group.
 

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I do think some dogs have a "will to please". I wouldn't have said that 3 months ago - Toby definitely is not that dog!! But Fergus is very willing to do things for next to nothing. I understand these arguments that he is getting something, even if it's not a treat or praise; but maybe that something is me being happy. I don't think it's impossible for a dog to do things to make their humans happy and that this also serves as their reward. In my eyes, his "reward" of me being happy doesn't negate his will to please.

For me, a good relationship is getting to the point where the things you do for yourself doesn't negatively affect the other and that the things you do for the other doesn't negatively affect you.
 

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Hey, wasn't there a "Friends" episode about this? LOL

For me, a good relationship is getting to the point where the things you do for yourself doesn't negatively affect the other and that the things you do for the other doesn't negatively affect you.
I just wanted to say I LOVED that part of your post, Toby.

As for the 'will to please'...

I think the relationships we have with our dogs is like a big biofeedback loop. In human terms, dog works to please me and to please herself, depending on the situation. I'm happy when she's happy and vice versa.

In scientific terms...the training and experiences I've had with my dog have for the most part been rewarding for her...in continued reinforcement of behaviours that I liked or that pleased me...my pleasure became a conditioned reinforcer for her...so as she recognizes my "happy" body language/voice etc, it is connected in her mind to "rewards" and so the same feeling occurs.

I prefer the first "human" description, but the scientific one is most likely the "why"...lol. Learning theory 101, which of course applies to ALL animals, including us.
 

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But what about when they don't get praise. Do they do it in the hopes of attention, praise, affection, ect?
Basically, at least imo.

I think humans have some will to please (as in a marriage), but most of the time, when we do things for others there is some element of self-gratification. Even giving anonymously to a charity makes us feel good about ourselves. It's self-reinforcing. Not usually purely to please someone else.

I think, for the most part, dogs do what they do to please themselves. To get the reward.
I agree with this.

And dogs certainly have the concept of self-reinforcing *stares at Wally remembering how he tried to eat poop off the ground for the 1000th time* LOL

One day the gorilla's handler was teaching the gorilla some other behavior, and bananas were used as the primary reinforcer. When she was done she opened the door to the secondary enclosure for him to enter. What did the gorilla do? He offered her the banana he just earned.
LOL that's awesome :)

Maybe those times Wally brought bones back to me (and even money) he was rewarding me for doing something - which I could remember what it was (especially for the money! :eek:)


I've asked this before... When my dog sits and waits patiently by the door for a walk, does she do it because of the simple pattern leading to reinforcement? Or does she do it to 'please' me? Or does she do it because doing so is reinforcing? Or all 3 reasons?

Think of that in how you define a good relationship and the 'will to please'.
I've thought about that much in the same situation. Is Wally sitting at the door because that's how he gets out or is he sitting to "tell" me to OPEN THE GOSH FRICKEN DARN HECK DOOR ALREADY I NEED TO PEE NOW!

I think #1 (reinforcement pattern) and #2 (pleasing you gets her rewarded, so she'll do what she thinks will please you in that context), and it could be #3 as well, especially if its something she enjoys - so heh, all three :)
 

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I'm jaded enough to think that everyone (animals included) only does something because they get something out of it. Some dogs just are harder to motivate than other dogs. If you scratch Zero's ears you are his new BFF. With Brutus, he doesn't care. If you have food you are Brutus' BFF, but only as long as you have food. Once it's gone, he doesn't care any more because there's no longer anything in the relationship that he wants. He is ambivalent to your affection and your goodwill. With Zero, there's always the possibility that you might scratch his ears again so there's always something in the relationship that he wants. You always have the ability to offer him affection or attention therefore you always have his attention.
 

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According to the Books (and in this I am referring to "the Culture Clash" by Jean donaldson) it appears that science does not support a dog doing things for his owner to please his owner. In there, it is reported that the "will to please" is poppycock.

However, with academics, the interesting things come about taking the Book Learnin' to the field and seeing if it is always the same or applying it with a thing called common sense.

I cannot talk about a "will to please" in my dog from a scientific level. I do not have the studies to back it up. I can look at it anecdotally and report my observations.

I believe that a 'will to please' is pretty much what humans HOPE a dog is expressing. This hope is self rewarding to the human. In watching my dog execute a Lie Down based on a verbal cue, you would think from her expression she is doing it to please me. She flings herself down and looks at me with a dog grin (yeah.. I know.. anthropomorphising LOL) and her tongue hanging out and her eyes sparkling and your impression is of a dog doing it to please her owner.

I know the dog and have inside information. She knows that Lie Down is often followed by something else and she finds rapid fire changes in activity rewarding (keep it moving and the faster the better). So her expression is of eagerness for whatever is next. It might even be one of her favorite things.. like going thru a tunnel or a long recall. Of course, because she loves doing those things I intermittently reward her with them.

The alternative is that she has figured out that she has trained me to intermittantly do as she wants me to (send her thru the tunnel or walk far way and call her so she can run as fast as she can).

In the gorilla example, the gorilla was possibly training the trainer OR the gorilla could have been mimicing the trainer. We don't know. I LIKE the idea of the gorilla training the trainer. It is more fun to consider.

Meanwhile, having lived with cats I can tell you absolutely and without reservation that cats do train their trainer and they will utilize the appearance of a willingness to please to lure the trainer into handing out food, a warm lap in winter or a space on the bed.
 
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