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Dogs Love Being Praised

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"As I sat on the wooden dock that jutted out onto the pond, I knew this to be true: my name is Buddy and I was a good dog."

In fiction, there's no greater compliment to a dog than being called a "good dog" or "good boy/girl".

If the dog is sapient and has a good enough understanding of human language, being this way can signify that they're humble and simplistic (maybe even a bit dumb, though calling dogs dumb triggers them into Angry Guard Dogs). They're a Loyal Animal Companion who enjoys simple things and likes making their human happy.

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As a result of this trope, being called a "bad dog" will be deeply offensive and troubling to dogs.

The scientific term for this is "pet-directed speech", which is considered a form of baby talk. Dogs actually react to the tone of the words rather than the actual words themselves.

Certain breeds tend to be more sensitive to praise (and rebuke). German shepherds and golden retrievers are particularly eager to please. Other breeds, such as labradors, are apt to respond to food rewards instead.

Despite the title, not all examples involve dogs. It's just most common in dog characters. See also Precious Puppy, which are more prone to this trope.

Contrast with Cats Are Superior, which features arrogant cats who more than likely don't care what their humans think of them. See also Baby Talk and Cuteness Proximity.

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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Seton Academy: Join the Pack!, Jin ends up tutoring most of the Beast Man and Little Bit Beastly population of the school when they hear rumors that anyone who fails the next tests will be expelled. As Jin tutors everyone, finding ways to learn particular to each type of beast, he very specifically does not tutor Ranka the wolf until much later, in private. That's because the special trick he has for her is, very simply, praising her whenever she gets anything right. Unfortunately, Ranka gets so excited at Jin's praise that she leaps onto him, prompting Jin to get mad and throw her out of the room, which the narration notes pretty much negates the effects of the praise.

    Comic Books 
  • In Astro City, G-Dog is a superhero created through the combination of Hank (a corgi) and Andy (a man) via the agency of the magic amulet. When this first happened, Andy planned to call himself 'Nighthound', but when he was asked his name for the first time, the Hank half of the combination blurted out 'G-Dog'. This is short for 'good dog' because Hank was very proud of being a good dog. G-Dog stuck as his name.
  • A darkly tragic and non-dog example with Dex-Starr of the Red Lanterns, who was just an ordinary stray cat taken in by a lonely woman. When she was murdered, Dex-Starr's rage drew the attention of a Red power ring, which he uses to avenge his owner because he's a "good kitty".
    I find one who hurt you. I kill. I good kitty.
  • We 3: 1, a sapient cyborg dog, is forced to kill a human in order to protect the rest of the group. Since the animals have a limited grasp of English, the closest 1 can come to expressing his guilt over the death of the man is saying "bad dog" over and over.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Harry Potter fanfiction The Shoebox Project, the Marauders take a potion revealing the animal selves that will come out when they successfully become an animagus. Sirius of course immediately starts acting like a hyper-energetic dog, and is so disruptive that Remus on instinct tries to quiet him by yelling "Bad dog!" Sirius is immediately heartbroken and curls up into a small, sad ball, occasionally sending Remus betrayed looks.
  • Going Native: Alluded to when Felix Geata compared the ships to dogs. The Enterprise-D is like one of those smart-as-a-whip show dogs with a thousand tricks, while Galactica is one of those old, slow one-trick dogs that just really, really wants to hear, "good girl".
  • In It's An Unliving, Cerberus/Kerberos howls in joy at being declared a "good boy".
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    Films — Animation 
  • In The Secret Life of Pets 2, one of the other dogs in the waiting room at the vet has developed a complex around thinking he might be a bad dog:
    My owner always says, "You're such a good dog," and I feel like a good dog, but what if deep down I'm a bad dog? WHAT IF I'M A BAD DOG?!
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    • Implied when Beta and Gamma whine after thinking about how Muntz will react when they find out Alpha sent Dug out on his own without Muntz's permission.
    • When Carl, in the middle of a HeroicBSOD, blames Dug for Muntz finding them and almost burning down Carl's house, he calls Dug a bad dog. Dug immediately lowers his head and walks away with his tail between his legs.
      • Reversed when Dug and Carl reunite after Carl has had a change of heart, happily welcoming Dug and finally, for the first time, calling him a good boy.
    • In the "Dug's Special Mission" bonus short, Dug becomes even sadder than he was initially when he overhears Alpha calling him a "bad dog".

    Jokes 
  • A common joke involves a pet owner asking "who's a good boy?" to his dog, only for the dog to explain that the owner is the "good boy".

    Literature 
  • In A Dog's Way Home, Bella has a limited understanding of humans, but she knows what being a "good dog" means and what being a "bad dog" means. To be a "bad dog" is a terrible offense. Bella wants nothing but to be a good dog and make people happy.
  • In A Dogs Journey, the protagonist enjoys being called a "good dog" and takes great offense to being called a "bad dog." He even will eagerly state himself as being a "good dog" whenever he has done something he thinks will help make someone happy and refer to himself as such matter-of-factly many times throughout the narrative. The beginning of the book starts with him saying this: "As I sat on the wooden dock that jutted out onto the pond, I knew this to be true: my name is Buddy and I was a good dog."
  • Inverted in Doglands. Furgul hates being called a "good boy" because he's not a "boy", he's a dog.
  • In the first Animorphs novel, Jake gets called a bad dog by his brother while shape-shifted into their family dog. He immediately becomes inconsolable and curls up in a corner.
  • Discworld: In Moving Pictures, Laddie's personality consists entirely of this and Dogs Are Dumb. The more cynical Talking Animal Gaspode, in this book and later ones, has a difficult relationship with the trope; on some level he wants to be called a good dog, and he deeply resents it. In Men at Arms he's able to provoke an instant existential crisis in some of the most vicious street dogs in the city by shouting "Bad dog!" at them. It only works because he's a Talking Animal, and thus can speak Human.
    Gaspode: (to himself) Clever Dog Saves The Day. Everyone Says, Good Doggy. No they don't, I'm only doing it 'cos I was threatened. The Marvellous Nose. I didn't want to do this. You Shall Have A Bone. I'm just flotsam on the sea of life, me. Who's a Good Boy? Shut up.
  • Zoo Day, one of the short stories of The Dresden Files opens with Mouse narrating:
    "My name is Mouse, and I'm a good dog. I know because everyone tells me so."
  • In Cujo when the titular dog has attacked and been bitten by a bat, the event which results in him being infected with rabies, he's afraid to go home out of fear that one of his owners will see the blood on his muzzle and call him "BADDOG", the thought of which he utterly obsesses over and feels absolutely horrible about.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: The Doctor's robotic dog K-9, despite being a sentient computer, can be lifted from depression with the words, "Good dog." (It does lead to a villain, in a NuWho episode, calling it/him a "bad dog"... for opposing the villain. K-9 proudly say "Affirmative!")
  • Series/Grimm: After Monroe (a Blutbad; think werewolf) is able to find something due to his superior sense of smell, Nick pats him on the shoulder and says, "Good boy!" Monroe was both annoyed and amused.

    Podcasts 
  • Welcome to Night Vale: Subverted by "The Good Boy", an incredibly cute beagle puppy who was always following Chad and Maureen around in season 4, and turned out to be none other than Satan incarnate.

    Video Games 
  • Red Dead Redemption 2: Arthur Morgan periodically calls the stallions he rides "good boy" and the mares that he rides "good girl" whenever the horse accomplishes something (like escape the lawmen and bounty hunters, jump over a rock or fence, travel a long distance) and as they ride across the old western landscape.
    • There are also free-roaming dogs that Arthur can interact with. Arthur can praise them, calling them "good boy" as he kneels down and pets them affectionately. It seems that every single dog in the game loves being praised by Arthur and will even began to form a bond with him, which means any time he comes across that same location, the dogs will remember him, bark happily and run up to him, wagging their tails and shaking their whole body excitedly, hoping to be praised and petted again. There is also a "scold" button, however (which is a button hardly used by many players, whereas these same players have no problem antagonizing any of human characters) and while Arthur doesn't say anything worse than to tell the dog to "go on home," they take offense to this, lower their heads, ears drooping with their tail between their legs and whine as they sulkingly slink away from Arthur. They will also have no bond with Arthur if he chooses to scold them.
  • The hero's Canine Companion in both Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II reacts very positively when other characters compliment him. Say something negative, and he doesn't take it well. Hawke's mother Leandra even points it out in the second game, reminding her brother that mabari are very intelligent and understand everything you say, which is the literal truth; an old adage concerning the breed is that they are "smart enough to talk and wise enough to keep silent." There are multiple opportunities in both games for the player character to be good to their dog, and he (like all members of his breed) has Undying Loyalty for his master.

    Visual Novels 
  • Scott Howl from Monster Prom is a Kindhearted Simpleton werewolf, a combination that lends to him being overall portrayed as, essentially, a dog in a man's body, right down to him occasionally eagerly referring to himself as "a good boy" and making it clear that that's his favorite compliment. On the flip side, he's thrown into distress in one scene by Vera threatening to call him a "bad Scott".

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • "Death and the Dog": When The Grim Reaper arrives to tell him that his time has come, the dog asks "Was I a good boy?" The answer: "No... I'm told you were the best." The dog accompanies him to the afterlife, tail raised in evident satisfaction with that answer.

    Western Animation 
  • In Martha Speaks, Bob the dog understands language like Martha, but unlike her, he can't speak, so when he gets called a "bad dog", he becomes an Angry Guard Dog and when he gets called a "good dog", he turns into a Big Friendly Dog.
  • Animaniacs: Most of the Buttons & Mindy shorts end with Buttons getting blamed for something and being called a bad dog by Mindy's mother, while Mindy herself gives the Badly Battered Babysitter a much-deserved hug.
  • The entire premise of the aptly named Bad Dog was the dog Berkeley would go catatonic when called a bad dog. He's so obsessed with being the best dog he can be though he has a compulsive need to obey every single order he hears, even ones that weren't directed at him, or even things like suggestions, or even sarcastic comments, that he tends to be called bad Once per Episode after enough collateral damage has been caused. The only way to turn him back to normal is to call him a good dog.
  • BoJack Horseman: Mr. Peanutbutter is an anthropomorphic labrador who is characterized by his incredible positivity and the desire for everybody to love him. This pays off in his career as a television star (his flagship TV show's theme song contains the line "He's a good dog, he's just trying to do his job") and his brief stint as a gubernatorial candidate, but makes things awkward for his friends and girlfriends as he constantly vies for their approval with grand gestures of affection. To cap it off, his license plate reads "GOODBOY."
  • Played for Laughs with Atticus from Infinity Train. He's a Talking Animal who likes when Tulip calls him a "good boy", but he corrects her by insisting he's a "good man".

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