15 Myths Regarding Dog Training
Number 1: “I was told by neutering or spaying my dog it will calm them down.”
This is not correct, primarily because the main thing to remember is when you neuter a dog, it will reduce the amount of testosterone that’s been produced in the body. The behavior and personality doesn’t change just like you a human doesn’t change their personality, just improve as they grow. If you have a hyper dog, they will continue to be hyper. If you have a chill dog, they will continue to be chill. The only thing that has really been seen is that males desire to find a female is reduced and with some nuetering and spaying, it can cause them to gain weight after surgery.
Number 2: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
On the contrary, just because you get an older dog from the shelter or from a rescue, doesn’t mean that it can’t learn basic commands and/or tricks. If you have an older dog their drive may not be as high to want to learn new things but they still can. For example; if you rescue a dog and it has issues with pulling, you can teach it to walk nicely. If you adopt a dog from the shelter and it likes to bark, you can learn to teach the dog to redirect his behavior.
Number 3: “We will just wait because he’ll outgrow that behavior.”
Dogs don’t “outgrow” behaviors such as running away, jumping up, barking, or potty training. Plus, if they’re showing dominant and sassy behavior, by ignoring it it will actually become worse. I’ve heard such things as “We will just let him bark it out. He just really likes to talk.” I can guarantee you this will not work. The behaviors listed above need to be consistently worked on and monitored throughout the course of the first year to have success.
Number 4: When a dog urinates in the house, you were supposed to “RUB their nose in it to let them know they did wrong” OR “Roll up a newspaper and hit him on the nose so they know not to do it again.”
BOTH of these comments are horribly wrong. Rubbing a dogs nose where they urinated or defecated is only going to encourage them to go somewhere where you can’t see them. And CERTAINLY rolling up a newspaper and hitting them on the nose is only going to cause them to fear the newspaper and fear you. Not to mention it’s horribly abusive and inhumane! Consulting with a professional trainer on questions regarding potty training is best. Using techniques like gating and crating, while watching their food intake and water intake is really the best way to create good potty training principles.
Number 5: “My dog is dumb, it can’t be trained.”
There is no such thing as a dumb dog. What I see as a professional trainer, is a lot of owners give up if it’s too hard or if they can’t figure it out. Dogs bank on the fact that you will give up before they do. You were always in a hurry and impatient, they are not. Plus, they learn if they wait long enough you’ll give in. The best thing to remember is to try different techniques, use different types of treats and consult a trainer if you’re struggling to make sure you can achieve your goals. I have not met a dumb dog yet, just frustrated owners!
Number 6: “My vet said you can’t start training a puppy until six months of age” OR “My dog is too small to be trained, I have to wait until gets bigger .”
This is incorrect. Most training establishments encourage you to start training your puppy at at least 10 weeks of age. In my puppy playhouse classes, it’s best to start anywhere between 8 to 10 weeks primarily because we work on desensitization of noises, sounds and surfaces while focusing on socialization to reduce any fear or insecurity in puppies. As long as they’ve had their initial shots and boosters they are OK to be around other puppies. The earlier you start training a puppy, whether at home or in a training class, the better they’re going to be later on. As far as little(toy) breeds such as Chihuahuas, Shitz Shu’s, Pomeranians and Yorkies they ESPECIALLY need to be trained at it early age because they can have problems with being small and show to be fearful of everything. You see commonly the behavior called “Napoleon Complex” because they are insecure about their size. Plus, the more a dog is exposed to the outdoors and other dogs, is the less likely that they are going to get sick as you build up their immunity just like children.
Number 7: “You have to be DOMINANT in order for a dog to listen to you, positive reinforcement methods don’t work.”
Honestly, just like school bullying never get you anywhere, being kind does. Old-school ways was yanking your dog around and applying dominant behaviors to gain success. These techniques involved using a choke chain or prong collar and “yanking” on the dog and also “alpha rolling” to provide your dog to submit to you. I’ve even seen dogs “hung” until they submit which is HORRIBLY inhumane. When I started training dogs over 20 years ago this is what I saw. The truth of the matter is, positive reinforcement is the new and popular way of training. Providing a positive reward for correct behavior. Many owners don’t want to use behaviors on their dog or submitting them in an alpha roll. Most owners can accomplish many different things by using clickers, treats, positive praise and a positive attitude. Ultimately, it’s about your consistency and not how harsh you are. If you work with your dog consistently every day, it’s fresh in your dogs mind therefore they’re going to be showing those behaviors more regularly. My recommendation to you is, if you go to the class and the trainer does nothing but scream and force you to manhandle your dog, PLEASE leave and find a different establishment. Firm correction does need to be done at times, however, it it should not be the majority of your training. “Bullying” your dog to do what you want it to is no different than a human being pushed around to obtain dominance in the workplace. It doesn’t feel good for humans and it certainly doesn’t feel good for a dog.
Number 8: “Using food is bribery.”
The main thing you need to remember when you are training your dog is that they prefer to work for a paycheck. The best example I can give to you regarding this is as follows; we all go to work and receive a paycheck. If we went to work one day and our boss said to us “You are doing a fantastic job and going above and beyond your requirements. We appreciate you.” And then ends the conversation with “oh and by the way we’re not paying you any more, thanks again for your service and will see you tomorrow!” Would you stay or would you go and find another job? Dogs are very much the same way. They like you and want to please you, but ultimately if you have nothing for them they’re going to go and find it elsewhere. Which means if it’s a choice between you in a squirrel, they’re going to choose the squirrel every time. The squirrel gives them the option to chase, which gives them a sense of competition and pleases their prey drive. Catching a squirrel in the end is worth ignoring you. They may not catch the squirrel, but they go for it anyway. The thing you have to remember is, your dog may love you but not enough to where it will refuse instinct.
Number 9: “My dog rips up my shoes or pees in the house when I’m gone because it’s MAD AT ME!”
The main thing that owners need to understand is dogs do not have human emotion. They can feel when you’re upset and they can certainly have sadness due to the loss of another dog, however, ripping up your shoes or peeing in the house when you’re gone is behavioral and not connected to emotion. The term that is used is “anthropomorphism.” That basically means that humans put an emotion to what their dog is doing to provide an excuse for what their dog did. Ultimately, your dog ripped up your shoes because they were there and it was not trained to understand to “leave it” and it urinated in the house when you were gone because you did not potty train it properly. These behaviors can be easily trained by using consistent training techniques.
Number Ten: “If I use food to train, I will always have to use food to get my dog to listen to me.”
This is incorrect. The earlier statement regarding using food as bribery, relates to this one as well primarily because the dog needs a paycheck to listen. However, once basic commands have been learned and taught and the dog is showing those behaviors on a consistent basis you start to “wean” off the treats and start asking for expectation. Just like children, initially it’s teaching them the behaviors you want by using rewards, but eventually teaching them that they are expected to do it as a basic behavior. Through consistency in training they learned that it is part of what is expected to be in your household, just the same as it is for a dog to be expected to know the behaviors to be in your pack. If a dog will “only do it for a treat,” this is what you have taught it to do and you are the issue. To correct this behavior please consult with a professional trainer.
Number 11: “My dog is being DOMINANT, that is why he doesn’t listen.” OR “This dog is being dominant because it’s a male.”
A dog not listening truly has nothing to do with it being “dominant.” Dogs can certainly have more of an “assertive” behavior, however they still have the ability to listen. It is truly about the training that is being done and whether it is working for your dog or not. If your dog is walking in front of you want it to walk nicely or if you’re asking it to sit and it looks away from you and refuses, those are examples of a dog not understanding either the command or struggling with leadership and what is expected, NOT DOMINANCE. As far as the whole debate whether males are more dominant than females, the answer is is that you can see a dominant female as well as a dominant male. Female dogs can be just as assertive as male dogs. Really in pack order, there is always an alpha male, alpha female and then the rest of the pack. If you’re struggling with training and not having the results you’d like to have, consult with a trainer for some advice.
Number 12: My dog looks GUILTY, so he knows he did wrong.”
This is one of my favorites. In the animal world, they understand dog behavior which means they understand when a dog is upset, mad or they have upset the pack order by doing a specific behavior. In this case, they just peed in front of you. Your reaction was to get up and start screaming at them, so the best case scenario to avoid any kind of conflict is to stop sit down and cower making minimal eye contact with you until you stop screaming. Or another example; you came home and walked in the house to find a puddle of urine or a pile of poop and instantaneously get mad. You haven’t even started to yell, you just “make that face.” So in order to avoid conflict or yelling they sit down and make minimal eye contact. You as the owner, see this and instantly bypass yelling or reduce the amount of yelling you normally would because you can “see they’re sorry.” In the end, The dog changed their behavior to change yours. It’s honestly no different than a young child who gets in trouble and instantly cries to appeal to your emotions and making you stop yelling. You feel bad because they’re crying and you don’t want them to cry so you stop.
Number 13: “You should never play tug-of-war, it only creates aggression ESPECIALLY with bully breeds.”
This is another favorite. The main thing to remember is when you are playing tug-of-war is there must always be rules. To make sure the tug-of-war is being done correctly, you need to always find a way for YOU the owner to win. It’s best to start with “take it” and “Drop it” commands so the dog understands when you start and when you stop. Honestly, no matter what the breed is, if done incorrectly it can cause more assertive behaviors to happen. The main thing to remember when it comes to bully breeds is they are very strong and powerful and honestly they can win physically. If you teach them to do this it can cause more assertive behaviors and with most bully breeds their confidence level is never a problem so an issue may develop in the long run. Having strong jaws and physical bodies they love to tug. Teaching them to “use their powers for good” is important.
Number 14: “Using “people food” will only make my dog bag at the table.”
This is another favorite. When using lures and reward such as string cheese or hot dog for training, this does NOT mean that automatically when you eat string cheese or a hot dog that your dog is going to be sitting and begging for more. Dogs understand the difference between training times and non-training times. If you work on the command “leave-it” or even “Are you Begging!” To help train them and understand that they are not to beg, they will be fine. A friend of mine used the “Are you begging?!” Command and taught her dog that if she asked that question his job was to automatically look away. Now, if you’re eating dinner and your dog is staring at you and and you give it table scraps on a regular basis it is going to think that people food is ok. If done only during training you will be just fine.
Number 15: “I don’t need to take my dog to a training class, I can do it myself.”
This last one isn’t a myth, however, I like to bring it up primarily because I hear it quite often. Training your dog is not rocket science or brain surgery. You can look up videos on YouTube(RUFF Academy YouTube Channel,) a lot of people have friends who are trainers and you could even watch TV shows that relate to dog training and figure it out. The biggest thing to remember is even though you may know what you’re doing and how to train your dog but the training classes or not so much for you as it is FOR THE DOG. Dogs need good class time for socialization and desensitization. Playing with the next-door neighbors dogs or your friends dogs is good, but they still need to meet other new dogs and be in new places in order to understand how to be well-balanced when instructed. Men seem to have an easier time for training primarily because they’re not training with emotion, they’re training on practicality. They say sit, the dogs sits. They visualize what they want with nothing else confusing the dog. Women become upset or impatient if the dog does not do what they’re asking them to do. ESPECIALLY if they see the dog respond their husband quickly and ignore them. My classes are primarily female based, however, it is nice when the husband comes along so they can work together on training. Pack order is established by who does the training and how often. Dogs will listen to whomever does the training. So couples working together as a team shows the dog to listen to both equally versus just one. Some training establishments require only one human to come and train the dog to provide good leadership. Problem with this is that the dog learns to only listen to that one person, so when that one person is not present the dog doesn’t listen to anybody else.
These myths are very common and you see them or hear them all the time. The main thing to remember is ultimately listen to a professional when it comes to training your dog. Take the knowledge that you know and enroll in a training class or speak with a professional trainer and you ultimately will have success no matter what. It is truly a win-win. Education is the key, then can share with others so that they can learn as well.
If you are a first time dog owner, following is recommended:
-Consult a veterinarian for any health related issues and needs.
-Consult a professional trainer on any dog training or behavioral needs.
-If your neighbors or friends offer training advice or even advice on your dogs health, what to feed them, what training tools to use on them, what worked for THIER dog, what place you should take your dog to train and other tips and advice take it is just that. TIPS AND ADVICE.
Everybody considers themselves an “expert” and wants to tell you what to do, but ultimately the professionals are in it for the specific reason of educating and helping you know what is best for you. They WANT you to ask for help, they WANT you to ask for advice. That’s what they’re there for! Nothing is more frustrating to a professional than hearing “Well my sister said or my brother said or my next-door neighbor said” because ultimately even though there is good intention, they are not the professionals.
The BEST thing you can do as a first time dog owner is research your dogs breed. What was it bred for? What needs does it require to satisfy? For example, does it need to hunt? Is it more protective? Does it like to herd things? By doing this, it teaches you what YOU as the owner need to do to make sure you have a happy dog and a well behaved dog. If you don’t fill the requirements of the breed there can be major issues and your training could be more frustrating.
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