Maybe you’re not like me. Maybe you don’t wonder whether your pups are plotting their next prank and whether it will embarrass you. If you don’t, your dogs probably aren’t “naughty” like mine are, and you’ve probably never had your dog run around your cocktail party with your bra in his mouth. You might ask, “Can a dog even BE naughty?” It does seem like a rather human trait, but the answer is certainly “Yes!” even if it’s only how we perceive their less-than-angelic but humorous behavior.
“Naughty” in human terms is really a discreet word for “morally questionable” or, if you want to get academic, “improper” or “indecent.” Dogs aren’t scholarly. They don’t know the difference between an adults-only video store and a kiddie amusement park. So this definition fits dogs only when humans feel prudish and get embarrassed by their dog’s mischievous and “indecent” behavior (such as the improper placement of noses in improper places and even the occasional digestion of, well, poopie.)
For our purposes, we’ll define “naughty” as “rascally, impish, playful, humorous and wily.”
What Are the Characteristics of a Playful Dog?
1. Charisma. No, really. Charisma is persuading everyone that you’re doing what they want you to, even though you’re not. I’d say all dogs have some charisma but some have more than others or, maybe, some know how to work it better than others (and thus get away with more.)
2. Desire to Please. Naughty dogs are performing for us. They want us to approve of their misbehaving.
3. Willingness to Disobey. As in, “I know you just said to get my head out of the trash, but I’m going to grab that chicken bone in there and then run around the apartment taunting you with it” sort of behavior.
4. Sense of (Canine) Humor. Yes, dogs laugh with their tails. And, yes, dogs somehow understand that, when we laugh, it’s a good thing. They like to make us laugh. They just do.
5. A Sense of (Human) Humor. Whether a dog is funny and, therefore, naughty instead of annoying or frustrating depends on our perception of their behavior. If you laugh and engage with your dog when he steals the toilet plunger for the upteenth time, he’ll keep on stealing it and you’ll keep on having pictures of your dog and a toilet plunger to post on Facebook. Which brings us to…
Why Are Some Dogs Naughty?
1. To Get Attention. This is the main reason dogs are naughty, which shows that naughtiness is a rather special phenomenon between humans and canines. You will not see dogs behaving this way when alone with other dogs.
2. To Prove a Point. They don’t look at it this way, but you’ll find that if your dog keeps doing the same naughty thing over and over, he’s probably trying to tell you something such as “I’m stealing the toilet plunger because I really need to get outside to play fetch.”
3. To Cheer You Up. Not all dogs have this wild ability to empathize with humans but many do. Both of my pit bulls have this ability — Hudson sticks close to me when I’m depressed, but Falstaff plays the clown and does naughty things to cheer me up. I can’t explain it, but it’s really cool.
So, what separates “naughty” from just plain “bad?” We all know there is no such thing as a Bad Dog, though the number of dogs dressed up as devils for Halloween would suggest otherwise. Mostly whether a dog’s behavior is naughty or is a matter of degrees.
The Difference Between “Naughty” and “In the Dog House”
1. Degree of Destruction. If you heard something in the other room and went to investigate and your dog had destroyed the a $10 Target pillow, oh well. If you come home to a destroyed couch, different thing.
2. Degree of Inconvenience. If your dog borrows your toothbrush, you can chew a piece of gum until you get another. If your dog is being rambunctious and shuts and locks you out of the house, not so easy.
3. Degree of Danger. For you and your dog. A dog that breaks away and tries to get you to chase him across a busy street is not amusing, nor is he “naughty.” Any behavior that compromises safety must be stopped,
Ten of the Most Playful Dog Breeds
You’ll see several bully dog breeds below. For whatever reason, these breeds tend to have a great sense of humor. Terriers are also famous for their antics.
1. Dachshund. This long wonder is famous for his indiscretions and love of mischief. Dachshunds love to make you laugh, but they are also resourceful and can accomplish amazing feats such as chewing through refrigerator cables thus flooding the house (personal experience).
2. Bull Terrier. This energetic breed can have trouble with obsessive compulsive disorder but its sense of humor is what one notices most.
3. Jack Russell Terrier. Lovable and highly trainable, this little terrier’s smarts make him a formidable prankster.
4. Pug. His somewhat comical looks reflect his jovial nature. The Pug is a true connoisseur of naughtiness and loves to play more than anything.
5. Maltese. This small, silky, white love-a-muffin loves to romp and play hide-and-seek with his owner. He is definitely a jokester at heart.
6. American Pit Bull Terrier. Despite their sometimes bad reputation, Pit Bulls are very humorous dogs. Always up for a game, you’d better hide your socks and stuffed animals or you’ll find them hidden in your dog’s bed.
7. Yorkshire Terrier. This tiny terrier is very enthusiastic about his owner and making his owner happy. He is an effusive canine with great prankster skills.
8. Labrador Retriever. As anyone who has owned one knows, the Lab is a master of mischief during his adolescent years. The Lab likes to steal toilet plungers (personal experience).
9. English Bulldog. Not limited to British wit, the English Bulldog can pull a fast one with the best of them. Beware of his sideways glance — it indicates a naughty mind at work.
10. Beagle. This wonderful family dog perhaps isn’t the brightest of canines, but the trouble he can cause is admirable.
What to Do With a Playful Dog?
So, you’ve ended up with a naughty dog breed, either by choice or chance — how do you manage this mischievous mutt? Do you even want to control his naughtiness, or do you derive pleasure out of his antics? It’s up to you. You decide whether you want to encourage this behavior or discourage it. If you laugh at and draw attention to a naughty dog, he will continue this behavior. If you ignore and/or gently correct a naughty dog, he will learn to stop. But don’t underestimate the joys of a naughty dog — as Samuel Butler said:
“The greatest pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too.”