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.
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.