The dog training industry provides a wide range of skills and knowledge, which means there will unquestionably be a diverse range of opinions among trainers and others in the industry. If you survey a group of people regarding a problem with your dog, then you will most likely receive as many answers as there are people! Just because we have a plethora of resources available to learn from does not mean a person becomes a dog trainer after reading a paragraph on canine aggression, mastering potty training in 6 steps, or watching a YouTube video on separation anxiety. Because of this, many myths regarding dog training have developed over the years. Take note of these dog training misunderstandings, misconceptions, and myths so you can avoid this line of thinking.
Dog Training Misunderstanding, Misconception and Myth #1:
Using food in training is bribery. Sure, we can use food to bribe. A bribe is using an incentive to get your dog to do something he already knows how to do, which is not training. When teaching an animal (or human!) something new, there needs to be some type of motivator for doing a certain behavior correctly. Receiving this reinforcement will motivate your dog to work and perform the desired behavior. Trainers typically use food because it is a primary reinforcement, and most dogs love working for food (however, we can use different forms of reinforcement like toys, play, petting). Food=paycheck=behavior will be repeated. As you advance in training, food is eventually phased out. An occasional treat lets the dog know they are doing the correct behavior. Pay them for doing the correct behavior or task!
Dog Training Misunderstanding, Misconception and Myth #2:
My puppy will outgrow this behavior. Though your puppy’s energy won’t last forever, some behaviors might if they aren’t addressed appropriately and in a timely fashion. If a puppy (or even older dog) likes the result of something or X behavior was reinforced in some way, they will more than likely do it again (even if it’s something we don’t like). If you notice a behavior that is problematic, don’t sit back and hope it disappears. Be proactive and limit your dog’s chance to repeat this problematic behavior. What are rehearsals for? They are for practice and to perfect a performance. If we allow a dog to rehearse problematic behaviors, then they will only get better at performing them.
Dog Training Misunderstanding, Misconception andMyth #3:
My dog cannot be trained. Though some dogs may be harder to teach, ALL dogs are capable of learning. Sometimes it just takes longer. If your dog is experiencing a behavior problem, it’s often due to miscommunication and/or under socialization. However, some problems may be the result of a medical condition or genetic predisposition. Regardless of the issue, professional dog trainers and behaviorists are experts in helping you and your dog manage and change/modify behavior problems through training.
Dog Training Misunderstanding, Misconception and Myth #4:
My dog did something wrong because he looks guilty. That’s a lot of human emotion you’re putting on your dog, which is also called anthropomorphism. Dogs don’t feel guilt, but they are great at reading our body language and responding to cues. They know when we are upset about something as soon as we begin to feel that way because our energy changes. We may tighten our muscles, raise our voices, etc. Your dog may look a certain way (tail tucked, crouching, lip licks, head turn) and appear “guilty”, but they are actually acting submissively as a way to diffuse your strong emotions. Say you walk into a room and your dog has torn up your favorite pants. Did you walk in on it happening or were the pants already destroyed when you walked in? If you walk in and your pants are in pieces, you really have no idea when the act of destruction took place, meaning it could’ve been 5 minutes prior or 2 hours. In both cases, too much time has passed for your dog to understand why you would be upset so chances are they do not know why you are upset. They know that you are upset by your body language and tone of voice, and therefore they may start exhibiting appeasement signals to help prevent you from being angry.
To prevent yourself from falling into the trap of believing certain myths, make sure you are learning from high-quality sources and legitimate dog trainers. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and do a little research before trusting their advice.
This article was written by Rachelle Yates, the owner and founder of K9 Revolution, LLC. Rachelle resides in Downtown McKinney with her husband and young daughter. She specializes in obedience, behavior modification, and training service dogs. Her goal is to develop and nurture the canine-human relationship to be the best it can be. Her canine family includes four dogs: Misha (Catahoula mix), Ginger (boxer/shepherd mix), Eli (Italian greyhound), and a new golden doodle fur baby. Rachelle is highly rated by many TDPS families.