Sometimes Dogs are Jerks – Good for the Dog; Good for You

Some dogs understand when you’re not feeling well. They lie down by your side and relax.

Honey is not one of those dogs.

If she doesn’t get her morning walk, she gets pissy. She won’t settle down. She barks for seemingly no reason.

In other words, sometimes dogs are jerks. Honey is no better or worse than I am.

Honey the golden retriever looks for treats in the snow.

Searching for treats in the snow is fun. But it’s no substitute for a walk. How else can I check my daily p-mail?

A Jerk is Not the Worst Thing to Be

Yep, I’ve been a jerk too.

I’ve blamed other people for things that were my fault. I’ve failed to answer phone calls and emails. And I’ve forgotten more birthdays than I’ve remembered (Honey’s was yesterday and it completely slipped my mind until I got an email from her breeder).

Sometimes being a jerk is entirely appropriate. Like when a parent dropping her kid off at the downtown school pulls out blindly into the traffic lane right in front of my bike. Or when a rude person takes no responsibility for his off-leash dog acting obnoxious.

And sometimes being a jerk is just a side effect of being human (or canine).

Forgive the Jerks

Honey is such a wonderful dog.

She never complains about the string of foster dogs that come into our house just long enough to steal her toys and slow down her walks. She’s a great traveling companion. And she never snatches food off the counters.

Honey the golden retriever thinks some dogs are jerks.

Looking for treats in the snow is less fun when some little foster dog finds them first. Jerk.

I think she’s earned the right to be irritating sometimes. Like we all have.

I forgive Honey for being a jerk. Like I am working to be more forgiving of the human jerks around me. After all, we all make mistakes, get tired, or just lose our brains.

But I struggle with forgiving myself for being a jerk.

I’ve allowed friendships to whither because I felt ashamed for not responding to an email or some other jerky behavior I’m prone to. And then I felt even worse that my shame over being a jerk made the other person think I was even more of a jerk, compounding my bad feelings and ensuring I’d never repair that friendship.

Maybe it’s time to accept jerkdom–both others and my own.

Honey the golden retriever goes for a walk.

Finally, my walk. This is all I’ve been waiting for. Does that make me a jerk?

Sometimes Dogs are Jerks

One of the things I love most about dogs is how similar they are to humans. They can be noble and self-sacrificing. But they are also opportunistic and self-serving. They, like humans, are amazingly complex, with desires, needs, and cares of their own.

This complexity means that sometimes dogs are jerks. Sometimes humans are too. And it’s just something we need to accept, work around, and forgive. Because it’s not going to change any time soon.

Your Turn: Do you agree that dogs sometimes act like jerks? Or do you think dogs behave better than humans? And who do you find it easier to forgive for being a jerk: dogs, other humans, or yourself?

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  1. Absolutely, Frankie was a jerk a lot of the time — he never hung around when I wasn’t feeling well or evinced any sympathy. He wanted his food/his attention/his egress and he wanted it NOW, my needs be damned. That’s one of the reasons the myth of “unconditional” pet love drives me crazy; a dog’s devotion is not judgmental or contingent on human standards, but it’s not good for people to expect their dogs to be lovey dovey all the time. That leads to immense disappointment — and you know what that can lead to.

    • And I think the key to all good relationships is the willingness to accept the other person for who they are and not trying to change them. Why should it be any different if the other in the relationship is a dog?

  2. yup dogs can be jerks and so can I. Easier to forgive those big brown eyes when they are jerks vs people. Something about the fur! Have a great day.

    • I wonder if people are more likely to see the “jerky” behavior of their dogs when they work together? As opposed to someone whose dog is purely a companion. Hmmm.

  3. Forgiving a dog for being a jerk, is easier than forgiving a human. People know better, dogs are just……well, dogs.

    • Yes, I know better. And it doesn’t stop me from being stupid.

      I agree that it’s easier to forgive a dog. But maybe it doesn’t have to be? :)

  4. SO much easier to forgive a dog for being a jerk. They are a jerk like 1% of the time in their lives. It does not happen very often. And they are entitled. Look at it this way. We are the ones who leave them to go to work. We are the ones they have to wait for, for food and walks and attention. We are the ones who rule their lives. We are the ones that take them to the V-E-T. Of course, they are entitled and they do not abuse that entitlement, which makes them even more noble. So when they do decide to be jerks, how can you help but be forgiving? Cannot blame the dog. Just cannot.

  5. I’m not sure dogs are being jerks…I think it’s just being dogs. I can totally forgive them for any transgression much more quickly than a human…and certainly quicker than I forgive myself.

  6. I think that it depends on the dog, but, yes, all of us, human or canine, can be jerks. Good thing dogs are so cute, or we might really know the extent of their jerkiness.

    • J at Sand Spring Chesapeakes seems to think it’s something about the fur. Does that mean I’m more forgivable if I stop shaving my legs? :)

  7. For sure, there are many times I wish I could just explain it to my dog. Wouldn’t that be easy? I do hope you are feeling better~

  8. I don’t think dogs are purposefully being jerks, or even cognizant of jerk-like behavior. Well, at least not in the same way humans are.

    • But we humans aren’t cognizant of being jerks at the time. If we were, most of us would change our behavior.

      Despite our amazing brains, we don’t control our actions as much as we think we do.

  9. I have been a bit of a jerk to my sister Bailie lately…everything she has I want until she no longer wants it. I guess it is part of sibling rivalry, even in dogs, but Mom is not happy when I take Bailie’s stuff. I’m working on not doing that anymore. So, yes, dogs can be jerks too.

    • So maybe the big difference is that humans control more things so we can be jerks over politics and the economy while dogs can only be jerks over toys and beds? :)

  10. I agree dogs, like humans can be jerks, and my dogs definitely is one. Like Honey she doesn’t give a damn if I’m ill carries on barking her head off even if I have the worst headache ever, bugs me with her toys and jumps on my stomach when I’m having an ache or cramps. But I can be a jerk too, towards other people and to her sometimes. After a particular bout of jerkiness I hate myself but I get over it and get on with life: I’m only human.

  11. Before Leroy I would say that I never had a dog that was a jerk. Now I have Leroy, who has the nickname Jerkface. He’s not a bad dog at all, he’s just can be a big jerk at times, which makes him awesome. I definitely think it’s easier to forgive dogs for being a jerk over people!

    • I think our dogs become more relatable when they sometimes act like jerks. I guess it’s nice to have a perfect dog (not that I would know). But I’d probably feel intimidated that I’m not as good a person as my dog.

      And yes, I think everyone agrees that we forgive our dogs more quickly than other people or ourselves.

  12. I think that some dogs are sometimes jerks. I think in general they ARE better than humans. And I think that some dogs are never jerks, just pains in the back side – too innocent to be actual jerks.

    • But often when people are being jerks, we don’t know it either. Is it possible that sometimes we’re too innocent to be actual jerks too?

      • I suppose it would also apply … :-)

        To give an example, JD is often a jerk. Cookie is a total pain in the back side but that’s just because she’s so young and happy and crazy = innocent, not a jerk :-)

  13. I am so pleased to hear that someone else does that! I am forever thinking – I’ll do it tomorrow and then I don’t and I feel so ashamed when the tomorrows add up. I always think that love is seeing someone who is a jerk and loving them anyway. I am sure our dogs can see as many jerky moments in us as we can in them!

    • My pet theory about relationships is not that we love someone anyway despite their being a jerk. Instead, we love the person whose jerky traits we can tolerate better than other jerky traits.

      For example, if I only showed my good traits, I could probably find any number of people to love me. But my husband is one of the few (if not only) people who can tolerate my bad traits. :)

  14. I don’t think any of us can claim to have never been a jerk at one time or another. But some people, and even some dogs, can be bigger jerks than others. The bigger the jerk, the harder it is to forgive. Dogs are easiest for me to forgive because they don’t have the capacity to reflect on their personalities and to try to better themselves. That is the responsibility of their owners to try to do for them.

    Pierson can be quite a jerk. He is dog aggressive so I have to be very careful when I take him for walks. He is definitely never allowed off leash. And we cross the street if we see someone else walking their dog. He is not aggressive towards Maya, but he can be an annoying little brother.

  15. I need this post, having recently done a wordy post on all the behaviors that make my dogs, in essence, jerks. Thank you.

  16. Well, humans can most certainly be jerks, but I agree dogs definitely have their moments of self-interest, too. The difference is theirs doesn’t have an undercurrent of maliciousness and they don’t dwell on the past.