Can a dog be a good dog?

Can a dog be a good dog?

This week we welcomed family members and pets to our Philosophy lessons, and we discussed the question:  can a dog be a good dog?  My own puppy, Truffle, was very vocal throughout and felt quite passionately that she was indeed a ‘good’ dog.  However, our pupils and parents got into a great discussion which called this into question.  Largely the debate revolved around our use of language and whether it was fair to expect ‘moral’ standards of a dog and perhaps they were fulfilling our human expectations of what their behaviour should be like. 

Can a dog even know that it is good, or is it just doing what we ask because it benefits them e.g. we give them food?  1W concluded that using the word ‘obedient’ instead of ‘good’ might be more fitting as what we really mean when we say, ‘good dog’, is thank you for doing as I commanded you!  1K concluded that food was the key to any ‘good’ dog! 

We then looked at the following logical caninedrum and pupils and parents were asked if this argument works and if not where it might go wrong.   

True friends choose to be friends with one another. 

Dogs do not choose their owners. 

Therefore, dogs and their owners cannot be true friends. 

Orin thought the problem was with attributing the human concept of friendship to a dog and Seth argued that the conclusion didn’t necessarily follow from the premises.  Krishan also suggested that children don’t usually choose their parents but that doesn’t mean they cannot be friends or love one another so objected to the conclusion.  We look forward to more interactive Family Philosophy next week. 

If you want to continue this discussion at home here are a few more ideas. 

  • If your dog can’t be trained, is it ever the dogs fault?  
  • If your dog steals your crisps, does it know it’s stealing? 
  • If chasing cats is what dogs do, is it wrong when they do it?  
  • How is a friendship between a human and a dog different to a human-human friendship or a dog-dog friendship?  
  • Are they all really friendships? 
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