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Even More Dog Training Myths

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

One of the most important aspects of ensuring a dog leaves a happy and healthy life is dog training. Dog training can curb and prevent undesirable behaviors, keep a dog from accidentally hurting itself or others, and help strengthen the bond between a dog and its owner or family. Although dog training is an important part of a dog’s well-being, there are many myths, legends and misconceptions about dog training which can confuse, frustrate and mislead dog owners. The following are even more dog training myths–and the facts behind them.

Myth: Positive reinforcement only works for easy-to-train bDog_Training_Mythsreeds, not stubborn or large breeds

This myth is often used to justify the usage of harsher training methods, which are typically only recommended for experienced dog trainers who know how to properly use tools such as choke collars and pinch collars to train dogs.

Positive reinforcement is, in fact, used around the world to train exotic animals, marine mammals and pets. Positive reinforcement teaches an animal to associate a behavior–or stopping certain behaviors–with a reward. In the case of an exotic animal, the reward might be fresh meat, while in the case of a family dog; the reward can be positive praise, petting and a little treat. Research has shown that corrective training methods are much more likely to lead to anxiety, stress and fear rather than a happy and well-behaved animal.

Myth: Using treats or food during training is bribery

Although sometimes dog owners do use food as bribery, such as when they try to lure a dog away from a situation by offering treats, using food or treats as a reward during training is not actually bribery but a reinforcement or reward. During training, food is often used because almost every dog enjoys food and treats and they will attempt to work for that particular reward. Other rewards may also be used for dogs that do not show much interest in food: toys, playing, petting and praise are also commonly used training rewards.

Myth: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks

This myth is so pervasive that the saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” has taken on its own meaning in popular culture! The truth of the matter is this: You can train a dog at any age, whether it’s a bouncing puppy or an elderly dog. It is true that older dogs will often require more patience and time during training than younger dogs because certain behaviors are likely now ingrained in them due to their past training or lack of past training. However, older dogs are typically calmer than younger dogs and will usually be able to focus on you and your commands during training sessions.

If you are having difficulty training an older dog, remember to exercise patience! You may be, in the course of your training, trying to undo a behavior which the dog has practiced for years.

Dog Training Myths

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Dog training is an essential part of ensuring that a dog is happy, healthy and safe. Some dog training can be relatively easy; many dog owners are able to teach their dogs basic commands, like sit and stay, without too much trouble. But dog training can be difficult, confusing or even frustrating! It makes matters complicated when myths and legends about dog training enter into the equation. There are many myths about dog training, some of which can actually confuse or frustrate a dog—or its owners. Let’s take a look at some of the most commonly spread myths about dog training, and how the facts measure up.

Myth: A dog knows that they’ve disobeyed because they look guilty.

Dog_Training_MythsThis myth is incredibly common–and incredibly untrue! While the debate as to whether or not a dog can feel guilty in same way that a person can is still up in the air, the “guilty look” that people see in their animals is not the product of a guilty conscience, but a learned behavior. A dog can pick up on the body language and vocal inflections of their owners. When an owner sees that something is wrong, such as a chewed up couch or a puddle on the floor, they will typically react by becoming upset; their pet will react accordingly by appearing “worried,” because they know that this behavior will appease a human who is displaying upset or angry types of body language. The dog does not necessarily know that it’s done something wrong—it is simply picking up on human body language and reacting accordingly.

Myth: A puppy should be six months old before training begins.

This myth likely originates from old school training methods which typically used heavy or spiked collar corrections, which meant that the dog should be old enough to withstand the potential corrections from the collar. Today, however, positive reinforcement training has done away with harsher corrective methods. In reality, you should start training your puppy as soon as you can! Puppies will likely take longer to train because of their shorter attention span, but there is no reason that you can’t begin your puppy’s training as soon as possible.

Myth: A dog that can’t be trained to respond to a certain command is stubborn, stupid or dominant.

This myth often leads to frustration both on the part of dogs and their owners—but it doesn’t have to be this way! It is true that some dogs may be more stubborn against training than others. However, these dogs simply require more patience and a better understanding of the situation from a “dog’s point of view” from their owner. Imagine that you are a dog—are the commands you are giving clear and consistent? Do they make sense? Would you want to obey them? Before you write off your dog as dominant, dumb or stubborn, take the time to think about how your dog perceives the training and adjust your own actions accordingly.