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 #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.
There is so much information floating around regarding dog training that I thought it might be a good idea to put to rest some of those “old favorite” myths that seem to circulate and never die out completely.
Myth #1: Dogs are descendents of wolves and should be trained based on how wolf packs interact with each other.
First of all, dogs are not wolves and there are many differences between dog and wolf behavior….the biggest one being that dogs have been domesticated and live with humans! This information on wolf behavior came from a study years ago and unfortunately has been used as our basis for “dealing” with dogs. Several books on wolf behavior can be found by author Nicole Wilde if you are really interested in the differences.
As far as training our domesticated dogs is concerned, there is no room for “alpha rolls”, “physical force” or “needing to dominate” our dogs. These methods make little sense to our pets and usually don’t end well. Let’s spread the word and help this myth die out, for the sake of pet dogs everywhere.