Dog training myths

(WTNH)- Michelle Douglas, CPDT-KA, CDBC, of The Refined Canine, LLC, Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Certified Dog Behavior Consultant discusses some popular myths about dogs that can inhibit your relationships and the training process.

The Alpha Myth or The Pack Myth
1) Dominance in wolves is not violent or forceful. The “Alpha” is simply the eldest member of the family.

2) Domestic dogs are NOT wolves and are not true pack animals anyway.

3) Dominance is a relationship between two or more members of the same species. Your dog will never see you in terms of dominance because you are not a dog. You are the “leader” simply because you provide the food and shelter, but you do not need to be forceful to prove it.

4) Dogs establish dominance based on confidence level in specific situations. One dog may be more confident in social settings, and thus take the lead; while another may be more confident around a lake or pool. Dominance is not a personality trait.

5)  The American Society for Animal Behavior (Veterinary Behaviorists) and the Association of Professional Dog Trainers both have position statements regarding Dominance, and both include citations to scientific studies which support these points.

MYTH: Working breeds need a heavy hand. 

TRUTH: All animals learn what works for them. If a behavior gets them access to something they want, or if it feels good, it will be repeated. 

1) All dogs will need to be fed for the rest of their lives. Almost all dogs will work for food, and this makes training easy and fun!

2) Punishment that is painful or scary is not only unnecessary, but can create negative associations which can lead to fear or anxiety based behaviors, including aggression.

3) We simply know better techniques now; so there is no need (or excuse) to use choke, prong or shock collars, especially for pet dogs.

Puppies shouldn’t go to training, or anywhere until they’ve had all of their shots: 

1) Social imprinting has a critical deadline and puppies who miss the socialization window may never reach their full potential.

2) 6-12 weeks of age is the socialization window, after which the imprinting slows down. Socialization must continue, but those first 12 weeks are critical.

3) The risk of potential exposure to a disease are relatively low compared to the risk of developing life-long behavior problems due to lack of sufficient early positive socialization. Well-run puppy classes only allow puppies who are health-checked, and any messes are immediately cleaned up with disinfectant.

4) Socialization should include exposure (in a FUN and POSITIVE way) to anything the puppy may encounter throughout its entire life, including all types of people and children. Dr. Ian Dunbar recommends that a puppy should meet 100 people in the first eight weeks of life, and another 100 people between 8-12 weeks!

5) The American Society for Animal Behavior also has a position statement stressing the importance of early positive socialization.

6) Dr. Dunbar has created the Sirius Puppy Raising Initiative as a “how to” guide to raising a well-rounded puppy.

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