Myth #4: My dog pulls on the leash, jumps on me or runs out the door in front of me because he is dominant.
Truth: This word “dominance” is used to explain every behavior that a dog does. The concept of dominance is a difficult one and is usually mis-used, so I have ousted it out of my vocabulary altogether. Dogs seldom want to rule the world; they tend to be more on the opportunistic side, if anything. They pull because we walk to slow, they jump to smell us and say “Hi” and they run out the door first because in “doggy world” “I want to be there first to get the best stuff…so why not?” More dogs have been punished for behaving like a dog than I care to count. This isn’t to say that these behaviors can’t be corrected, but not with punishment nor with the idea that “my dog wants to be in charge”.
Myth #5: My dog knows he did something wrong. He looks guilty.
Truth: Although there is a lot of debate on the emotional intellect of dogs, as of right now, the theory is that dogs live in the moment. If Fido destroyed your curtain and you walk through the door and he seems “guilty”, he is taking his cue from your body language. If he looks guilty the next time, it is probably because “sometimes you come home and you are happy and sometimes you are angry…which will it be today”. Dogs are wonderful at reading our body language. They pick up on the smallest changes and can read us better than most of our friends can!
Myth #3: Why bother training a puppy. Dogs don’t learn anything until they are over 6 months of age.
Truth: Yipes! This one is not only incorrect, but can create some really difficult issues for the owner. Just as human babies begin to take information in from day 1, puppies do the same. In fact, their all-important “socialization period” is primed and ready within the first 2 months. It is vital that puppies are exposed, (at levels to which they are comfortable with) to as many different people, well-mannered dogs and experiences as possible. Aside from socialization, they can start learning basic obedience too. Most puppy classes start dogs off at 8 weeks of age!
Myth #2: My dog doesn’t seem to be able to learn anything. He is stupid, dominant or stubborn.
Truth: Dogs are similar to humans in the way that they learn. We all have strengths and weaknesses and some grasp concepts quicker than others. The same is true with dogs. Keep in mind that many dogs were bred for specific purposes and others may have been bred more for “show”. In any case, all dogs can learn, the trick is to meet them at the level that they can handle. We would never ask a child in kindergarten to study calculus, and we shouldn’t expect a young puppy to behave like a 5 year old dog. Dogs need appropriate motivation, consistency and levels of testing in which they can succeed. Something is missing in the teaching method if your dog is having trouble. In other words, the human needs to make the adjustments in order for the dog to succeed.
If a dog refuses to perform a behavior make certain there isn’t a medical problem or causing the dog pain. Check the hips, legs or any area for possible pain. Finally, work in small increments. Catch them doing what you want and reward them for it. They will be more apt to do it again.