10 DOG TRAINING MYTHS
Updated: Nov 13, 2021
In my coaching and training sessions, I train dogs and teach you to get along better with them. During these sessions, I learn various interesting things from you. In this blog, I will deal with the myths about dog training that I meet most often. Most of them are due to ignorance, or lack of understanding of the dog’s psyche.
1. An old dog will not learn new tricks
Many owners of older dogs believe that it is far too late to learn something and that the behavior of seniors cannot be changed through training. This is a myth that unfortunately deprives homes of many dogs staying in shelters. An adult dog of several years, not only can learn new games and tricks, but his bad habits can also be changed by appropriate and consistent work.
You can teach older dogs plenty of things. In fact, almost any command, skill or trick that you can teach a puppy, you can teach an older dog. It might just take a little longer.
Moreover, for older dogs, training is a great way to maintain physical and intellectual fitness. An older dog also needs to be trained if we want to slow down the aging processes in his brain.
Besides that, there were many studies done, which proves that old dogs can learn new tricks (f.e https://www.nbcnews.com/…/computer-training-dogs-could-help… )
2. Playing tug of war games causes aggression in a dog
This isn’t true. If they are correctly introduced, playing tug of war games can be a great form of reward during daily training. It is important that the dog is not obsessed with the toy and does not treat it as a resource that it must defend. This game is especially strengthening the relationship between dog and guardian and is not about the toy.
You also need to apply clear rules to the game and use a command to drop the toy. The guardian should clearly indicate the beginning and end of the game. Competition participants often reward their dogs with a tug of war. Thanks to this, they build compliance and enthusiasm in the dog, without creating aggression.
3. The dog must know who the alpha male is
This myth is derived from the theory of domination, which I wrote earlier on my blog. According to this theory, the dog comes from a wolf and forms a herd with people. Therefore, the relationship between the dog and his guardian is the same as the relationship between wild wolves. The dog must be physically and mentally dominated so that he knows who rules here and only then can we count on his respect and obedience …
There is probably no more harmful myth than this one. Training based on positive methods and building relationships with the dog shows that there are much better ways. Fortunately, owners’ awareness is increasing and more and more schools are stopping education through violence and intimidation.
4. If you train your dog with treats, you will always have to carry them with you
Another myth willingly repeated by supporters of more traditional training methods. Of course, by rewarding the dog with treats you can fall into the trap of bribing your dog for work. That is why it is very important to stop (slowly, step by step) the reward for each command execution as soon as possible and strive for a variable reward system. Treats during training can be, especially at the beginning, a frequently used reward, but not the only one. Many dogs will be more willing to work for a moment of fun with its guardian, or the opportunity to explore the environment. The correct motivation system is very important if we want to see the effects of training. Therefore, sometimes it is worth seeking advice from a specialist.
5. My dog is stupid because he’s not able to learn anything
As you can see, many myths refer to dog intelligence, but we forget about the second piece of the puzzle: the teacher. During training, a lot depends on communication with the dog, correct rewarding and appropriate motivation. In short, a lot depends on the trainer. If this trainer is an experienced dog trainer or behaviorist, he should quickly catch all the mistakes you make. However, if you train a dog yourself, you not only don’t see these errors, but you may not even be aware of their existence. From here, it’s only a step to transfer your frustration and failure to the dog. Think about whether your dog is stupid, malicious, lazy? Can you not train him? I advise everyone to sign up for even a few lessons with an experienced trainer who will show you what and how to do it.
6. The dog must be one year old before starting training
I often hear this myth from enthusiasts of traditional training methods. They associate training with a spiked collar, jerking the leash and shouting at the dog every now and then. After all, a puppy is not suitable for such “training” … and is a one-year-old dog suitable for it?
The truth is that the pooch learns from the first day of his life. When he gets to our house during the socialization period, his brain absorbs everything like a sponge. He easily learns the rules at home or sets himself when there are no clear rules. It is not necessary to conduct formal training so that the pooch can learn to settle in a designated place, walk on a leash, family relations, daily rhythm of the day, etc. Young puppies are obviously too young for an hour of basic obedience training, their concentration is not as good yet. However, there is nothing to prevent them from focusing, stay of objects, proper play, walking on a loose leash, coming on-call, etc. Therefore, for little puppies, the best solution is Dog Kindergarten classes, where fun mixes with socialization and learning basic commands.
7. Training affects your dog’s whole life
If a dog has once learned the “sit down” command, he will remember it all his life … and do you remember everything you learned in primary school? Of course, things are often repeated multiple times to stay longer in our minds. For dogs it’s similar. The difference is that dogs don’t generalize well. If you teach your pet to sit in a large room on the carpet, it doesn’t mean that he will perform the same command on the grass during a walk. Therefore, each command must be practiced in different places and with different distractions.
Many people finish training at the stage of obtaining behavior. As soon as the dog sits down (usually in class) at the command, they think that it can be ticked off as ‘learned’. However, each command still needs to be recorded and practiced in different contexts. It is also good to remind the pooches of familiar commands and tricks from time to time.
8. Mixed–breed dogs are smarter than purebred dogs
The war between the owners of mixed-breed and purebred dogs continues. Some think that mixed-breed dogs are smarter, others that purebred dogs … I’m afraid there is no end to this dispute. The truth is that all dogs are intelligent and eager to learn. Of course, there are differences between individual races. Purebred dogs were bred for a specific purpose and it is easier to predict their predispositions. Mixed-breed dogs are a bigger puzzle for owners and trainers. Personally, I like working with purebred dogs, crossbreed, and mixed-breeds as long as they have reasonable owners.
9. Every dog should be trained the same
This is a big mistake sometimes made by less experienced trainers. They think that since a method worked with one dog, they can use it for everyone. Nothing could be more wrong. You will often hear: “It doesn’t work for me”, “And my dog does it differently” … Of course, this may be due to the mistakes of the trainer himself, but it also happens that somehow does not work for a given dog. The only option left is to find another, more effective method. Fortunately, there are a lot of training methods.
My job during training is mainly to choose methods for dogs and their guardians. Finding the right training method is half the battle. That is why I focus on the individual treatment of each dog and his guide. In addition, I advise you to avoid activities organized on a massive scale, where there are about 10 dogs per trainer.
10. It is impossible to train a shelter dog
I don’t know where this belief comes from that dogs from the shelter are more difficult to train. Perhaps this is due to the fact that they usually have had bad experiences with people and need some time to rebuild that trust. However, from experience, I have to say that I do not see any special differences between intelligence or willingness to learn in shelter dogs and those who have had a happy home since the beginning of their lives. It all depends on the right approach to the dog, good motivation and consistent work. Fortunately, many dogs taken from the shelter prove in my class that they are equally good and sometimes even better students than puppies from “good homes”.
I am curious if you have read any other myths about dog training? Maybe you heard some interesting advice from an all-knowing “trainer”. Or some “friendly” dog owner gave you some valuable advice during the walk … Write in the comments below this post.