Crazy dog training myths

Crazy dog training myths are pretty heavily entrenched in what many people believe when it comes to dogs and training. It doesn’t help that dog training to many people seems like some sort of wizardry (I promise it’s all science), so it makes sense that there’s a bit of craziness in the rumors that float around about training. 

Let’s get to them!

Myth #1 - Old dogs can't learn new tricks

This is a myth that’s actually a bit of a pet peeve of mine. It’s never too late to teach your dog something new, and it’s never too late to bring change to habits you’ve been putting up with from your dog. 

There is no reason to live in misery, fear, stress, or frustration because of a thing that your dog has been doing, even if it’s been a habit for years. Things can always be made better and things CAN change. It just takes the right training and of course consistency!

Myth #2 - Puppies are ready for the world at 8 weeks old

This myth is entirely false. Your new puppy is developing in so many different ways during this age. As a training myth the danger with this that I see have to do with the puppy’s development behaviorally. This is the age that the dog is being shaped into who they will be for the rest of their lives, and things can go wrong. This most usually results in behaviors such as fear, anxiety, or aggression that we could have prevented with proper socialization. So many puppies are under or over exposed to things, and knowing how to navigate can be a challenge. To make matters even harder, socialization has it’s own misconceptions as well!

Myth #3 - Your new dog will learn what he needs to from your old dog

While it is true that your new dog will learn from your old dog, you have absolutely zero control over what it is that he will learn. Your new dog will simply follow the value, and if it’s great fun to misbehave like your old dog (I assure you it is) then that is what your new dog will learn. Nuisance behaviors can spread like wildfire and can even be learned in just a couple of days. More serious issues, like fear problems, separation anxiety, and aggression are also things that can pass from one dog to the next. When this happens you’ve got two trouble making dogs instead of one!

What a lot of people don't know

Training two dogs is more than twice as hard as just training one. This is because with two dogs you have to train them separately if you want to make good progress and have visible results. Juggling training between two dogs in one session isn’t even something that training pros do! Another thing to consider is that all methods do not work on all dogs. One of your dogs may be responding to one method and another to a different method, and this is something that you’ll have to be able to recognize. So now the amount of knowledge that you need to know is also more than doubled. 

Double the dogs means at least double the complexity in all regards and even more if there are unwanted behaviors involved. It’s very easy to get in over your head, especially if you’re not really sure what you’re doing!

Myth #4 - Spitting in your dog's food teaches them you're the leader

I’m really not sure where this myth came from and I don’t care to know. All that You need to know is that it’s totally false. No amount of your bodily fluids in your dog’s food or otherwise fed to your dog will teach them anything. Perhaps they’ll learn about what you had for lunch, or about your ulcer, but absolutely nothing useful. This is one of those myths that leaves you scratching your head. For me it truly is a crazy dog training myth. 

Myth #5 - Scolding your dog near the mess they made teaches them not to do it again

Whether your dog has raided the trash, peed on your bed, destroyed the kid’s toys, or just created a mess of the place, it does no one any favors to scold your dog by the aftermath. This isn’t something you’ll ever find a real trainer advocating for or doing.

What your dog is learning when you're scolding them

First and foremost they’re learning that you’re unhappy and potentially unpredictable. Your dog doesn’t at all connect what happened in the past to you trying to discipline them now. All they know is that you’re angry/frustrated. At these times your dog will likely start to display what is called appeasement behaviors. These are simply behaviors meant to defuse the situation or to make the dog less of a target. Common appeasement behaviors:

  • Lowering the head 
  • Crouching closer to the ground
  • Low wagging tail
  • “guilty” look – squinted eyes, closed mouth with long lips
  • Ears laying back and flat on head
  • Slow and careful movements
  • Lip licking
  • Averted gaze – can’t look at you or the thing you’re scolding about
  • Whites of the eyes showing more than usual
  • Refusing to come closer to you or hiding
  • Avoiding you
  • Flinching or wincing at movement

Many of these behaviors people read as the dog knowing they’re guilty. They truly don’t. They just understand what is happening that moment and that it is not pleasant. Your dog is doing these behaviors to try to make the situation stop or go away and it’s a matter of responding to the threat they feel they are under.

At this time your dog learns that the presence of a mess and your discovery of it is bad news for them. If this is a potty mess, they’re learning it’s unsafe to potty around you (good luck pottying them on leash outdoors!!) and they will likely try to hide their messes. They’re learning not to trust you, and this has a cascading effect when it comes to dog training and your relationship with your dog. 

Modern dog training is based on Science and proven methods not old wives' tales

There’s a better way to train, there’s a way to have every dog you own be a heart dog. But you’re not going to discover those ways on your own or by listening to cousin Bobby-Joe’s crazy dog training myths.