It’s inevitable, a post is made to social media and suddenly EVERYONE is an expert about dogs. Even if they had a dog once, when they were a kid. Unfortunately, that’s how misinformation gets around. Other questionable information is by professionals that don’t keep up on the latest in animal behavior science. Some of the culprits are dog walkers, pet sitters, groomers, trainers that use aversive methods, and even some veterinarians. I am often asked about dogs and their behavior. I have made a list of some of the more FAQs and Myths about dogs, and my answers to them, drawing on both my experience and education.
FAQs and Myths About Dogs and My Answers
- Is my dog pulling on the leash because she wants to dominate me?
No! There are a few contributing factors to why your dog pulls on its leash.
- It’s excited to get out and do something fun with you!
- Dogs have an oppositional reflex, meaning they push against pressure, not retreat from it. This is why you see dogs nearly choke themselves out sometimes.
- A dog’s natural gait is more of a trot and they zig zag to find scent and food. Our natural gait is a slow, linear walk. They don’t mix!
- Is my rescued dog acting this way because she was abused?
It’s likely the reason is that she wasn’t properly and positively socialized. Dogs who are not exposed to a lot of things in a positive manner are afraid or anxious in new situations. Socialization starts the moment puppies are born. They should be handled with care. Once they are about eight weeks old it’s time for them to start meeting all kinds of people and animals. They need to get out to see the world and shown it’s not a scary place.
- My dog bit someone out of the blue! Why?
Firstly, I’m really sorry this happened! Secondly, there may have been warning signs that were missed.
Dogs give a lot of warning signs such as:
- Lip licking
- Sniffing the ground
- Turning his head or body away
- Giving a wide-eyed or side-eye stare
- Lip curl
Not all dogs do all of these things, know your dog!
- Should I correct my dog when it growls?
No. Your dog is telling you it isn’t happy (see above.) Remove them from the situation instead.
- My dog is old, can he learn new things?
He absolutely can! Just like us, as we age, it just might be a little harder or take more time. Be positive, have super yummy treats and be patient.
- Tail wagging means she’s happy!
No, it simply means a desire to interact.
- A loose, body level wag does mean she’s happy.
- High and stiff means she’s on guard, time to take her out of the situation
- Low or tucked, slow wag means she’s likely fearful, again, time to take her out of the situation
- Doesn’t rubbing my dog’s nose in his pee make him learn to pee outside?
A better solution is to track his potty schedule, make sure you take him out right after he wakes up from a nap or he’s done playing. Also, ½ hour to two hours after eating and drinking.
- I’m pretty sure my dog is chewing, peeing, or barking, out of spite! Is that true?
Research can be found that supports or rejects this. Most likely there are a few contributing factors:
- Your dog is anxious
- Your dog isn’t potty trained or
- Your dog is too young to hold it as long as you expect them to
- In order to have control over a dog, you must be the alpha and punish them, correct?
No. The alpha / dominance / pack leader theory came out of a study done in the 1970’s where they put a bunch of wolves, previously unknown to each other, in an enclosure and watched them vie for position. This study is flawed because wolves don’t act like that in a natural family group. While dogs & wolves are in the same phylum they are not the same species.
Dogs have a hierarchy of needs just as people, the biggest need is food. We control that food and can use it to our advantage for training
- Isn’t it true, some breeds of dogs can be taught using positive reinforcement, but breeds like pit bulls, Dobermans, Chow Chows, etc must be taught differently?
False. All dogs learn at different paces regardless or in some cases because of breed. It all comes down to motivating your dog the way they need motivated. The idea that some dogs are food motivated is also false, find the treat that your dog loves. You just haven’t found his crack level food. I don’t want to work for a kale salad, but give me a bar of high quality dark chocolate, I’ll work really hard for that thing!