Being a good dog, at least most of the time, is usually a byproduct of advancing age in the canine world. Experience and maturation of the brain work together, and allow a dog to see the choices presented to them within a given situation in a new light. In most cases, they decide to take the route of the "good dog". This path serves to increase their reward opportunities, it's a natural. Unless the dog is a bit deranged, "good" is the way to go!
Occasionally there are dogs that just don't seem to "get" the calculus implicit in this natural evolution toward "good dog" psychology and behavior. It might be a genetic anomaly, perhaps abuse from the environment of one sort or another. These dogs often end up in the pound; rejected, unwanted. Often their lives end much earlier than nature intended. For those who cherish an ideal version of the much beloved family pet, such an end is dismaying at best.
For a dog, deciding to be good isn't really "decided". It is a natural growth pattern, it's an unconscious pragmatic decision. At times it's either be good or be gone. As I read human accounts on the nature of goodness, and the moral questions encountered during the duration of human life, I recognize just how easy this whole "goodness" thing is for us canine citizens, when compared to the complexities of human evolution and development that homo sapien creatures must deal with, while striving to be good. Humans are challenged to live under authority just as we dogs are. Their cerebral cortexes are able to generate an ideal version of "goodness" that is explicit and individual. They must then subjugate that ideal to the demands of daily living; often compromising, feeling guilt, trading loss and gain in an attempt to achieve a "self" that they can be at peace with. Sometimes I wish I never felt these human urgings, and could go back to being a dumb old normal dog. Ok, well, not really. I don't really want to be a dumb old dog. My specific vision of being the good dog includes humility, so I thought I would throw that into the mix for possible brownie points.
Just how good does a dog, or a human, have to be in order to face the Big Dog, or Emptiness, or Oblivion with surety, with a smile, with pride that they have lived a life well led? It's something I wonder about as I lie in the sun daydreaming. Give your dog a little extra treat tonight if you think he's doing okay on his journey to good dog status. Cut him or her a little slack. You know yourself how arduous the road can be.
Good As You Can Get