Common Dog Behavior Myths Debunked

By Linda Cole

When it comes to dog behavior, myths are misleading and downright hurtful to the dog. We train dogs to help establish a bond and teach acceptable behavior. However, if you believe behavior myths and follow them, you can harm your dog and jeopardize your relationship with him. Most dog owners have heard all kinds of common dog myths, and some people still believe them. Here are seven myths that relate specifically to dog behavior.

Dog Behavior Myth #1: Dogs know when they’ve done something wrong and that’s why they have a ‘guilty’ look.

The truth is, dogs don’t equate things they do with wrongdoing or guilt. The so-called guilty look we see is just a reaction by the dog to your body language and tone of voice. When you walk into the kitchen and find the trash spread out on the floor, your dog isn’t hiding in the corner because of what he did. He’s hiding there because he knows how you’ll react and is showing you submission in an attempt to please you and relieve your tension.

Dog Behavior Myth #2: My dog is trying to take charge when he won’t listen to me.

If you don’t teach a dog how to behave, he won’t listen to you for the simple reason that he doesn’t understand what you want. Even a stubborn dog will follow, as long as you lead and teach. You have to motivate a dog just like a teacher needs to motivate their students. ‘Come’ is one of the harder basic commands for dogs to learn because there is no motivation to come. Calling him usually means playtime is over or he’s in trouble. Never punish a dog for coming to you. Calling him to come and then punishing him when he does is the best way to teach him not to come when called.

Dog Behavior Myth #3: If your dog has an accident in the house, you should rub his nose in it to teach him he was bad.

Punishing a dog for doing something natural, like going potty, only teaches him you can’t be trusted. Just because he’s housebroken doesn’t mean he knows it’s wrong to go inside. If you’re late getting home, or if he’s not feeling well, accidents can happen. Instead of freaking out and making a scene, quietly and calmly clean up the mess. You may need to reevaluate your schedule. If accidents continue, a vet check up may be needed, or more housebreaking sessions may be needed.

Dog Behavior Myth #4: Dogs need to be around other dogs and like to play with each other.

Some canines would rather not be around other dogs, nor do they feel a need to play with dogs they don’t know. Dog parks are great places to help keep dogs socialized with other dogs and people. However, some dogs don’t like strange dogs invading their space and don’t want to play with them. There’s nothing wrong with a dog that’s comfortable with a small circle of his own friends. Dogs are as individual as we are, and some don’t want to be the life of the party.

Dog Behavior Myth #5: A cowering dog means he’s been abused.

Even a friendly dog that’s never been abused may cower when a stranger reaches down to pet him. Most dogs don’t like it when we reach down towards their head. The better way to pet any dog is to kneel down, turn your body to the side and let the dog come to you. Then move your hand towards his chest and move up to pet him on the head. A dog with a fearful or shy personality might cower, as will a dog that wasn’t properly socialized, and one that doesn’t like someone grabbing his collar.

Dog Behavior Myth #6: Shelter dogs come with a lot of baggage.

This myth is so not true. You can find great dogs in shelters (purebreds, puppies, older dogs and mixed breeds) and most of them are well socialized, well mannered, healthy, friendly and housebroken; some are even well trained. Owners surrender dogs to shelters for a variety of reasons, and most of them have nothing to do with a dog’s bad behavior.

Dog Behavior Myth #7: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

As long as you have the time and patience, you can teach basic commands or tricks to any dog, regardless of his age. All it takes is some CANIDAE dog treats, and staying calm, dedicated and consistent. Dogs enjoy being with their owner, and training is one of the best ways to earn their respect and grow the bond between you and your dog, no matter how old he is.

One of the most important things to remember when interacting with your dog is to never do anything that causes your dog to see you as immature, unfair, unpredictable or out of control. You may not realize it, but dogs can tell the difference. You have to earn a dog’s respect before you get his unconditional love, and you earn respect by being a fair and positive leader.

Photo by Andrew Morrell

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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3 thoughts on “Common Dog Behavior Myths Debunked

  1. I agree with most of what you say, except for #6. A blanket statement that dogs don't come with baggage from a shelter is partly right and partly wrong.Lots of dogs are wonderful right from the shelter to your home. Other dogs have been mill dogs, kicked around and hurt. They take a lot more work and if you are up to it, you will make the best friend you have ever had.
    But don't be discouraged if you choose a dog that does need a good bit of work. Just stick with him or her.

  2. I agree with most of what you say, except for #6. A blanket statement that dogs don’t come with baggage from a shelter is partly right and partly wrong.Lots of dogs are wonderful right from the shelter to your home. Other dogs have been mill dogs, kicked around and hurt. They take a lot more work and if you are up to it, you will make the best friend you have ever had.
    But don’t be discouraged if you choose a dog that does need a good bit of work. Just stick with him or her.

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