Good Dog, Bad Dog: Debunking Common Training Myths


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By Jade Banlaw

Chances are at some point you have received unsolicited advice when out with your dog. From the pet store to the dog park and everywhere in between, well-meaning “experts” attempt to tell you what’s best for your pup. It’s hard to know what to believe and what to ignore, but there are a few beliefs that trainers hear from clients over and over again. Below we expose the truth about the top five most common dog training myths.

Myth #1

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

This old adage is an important one to de-bunk, especially  since adopting a senior dog can be one of the most rewarding experiences one can have. Similar to children and teenagers, puppies have tons of energy, can have difficulty focusing, and need a lot of attention. This can make training an arduous task requiring consistency and dedication. Older dogs, on the other hand, are better listeners, are calmer, and generally have more experience interacting with humans. While it can take a bit longer to train unwanted behaviors out of an older dog since they’ve had more time to practice poor manners, it may actually take less time to teach them new tricks given their more relaxed disposition and desire to please.

Myth #2

Dogs misbehave because they’re mad at you.

While we sometimes make comparisons between dogs and people, it’s important to remember that canines are not humans. They do not speak English, and do not possess traits such as “stubbornness.” Peeing or pooping in the house (even if it happens to be on your brand new shoes) is not a sign of anger. There is almost always a reason your dog is not listening to you. Behaviors such as in inappropriate chewing, peeing/pooping, and aggression require your attention to figure out what your dog is attempting to communicate. From anxiety to fear to pain, it’s our job to decipher what they are trying to say and what they need to prevent future incidents. Try to understand misbehavior from a canine point of view, instead of through a human lens.

Myth #3

Playing tug games with dogs makes them aggressive.

While an ideal game of tug-of-war may be between two canines, it is perfectly fine to play tug with your dog, as long as you set some boundaries. The game should always be initiated by you, and end with the “leave it” command. If your dog doesn’t have a solid “leave it” command, tug can be a great opportunity to practice, since you have our dog’s full attention. Tug is also a great way to direct a dog’s energy and channel a puppy’s biting and mouthing instinct, and can help build a dog’s confidence and strengthen the human-dog bond.

Myth #4

Rubbing a dog’s nose in her accidents will make her stop having them.

This is an outdated method that not only doesn’t work, but is detrimental to the human-dog bond. Dogs have no sense of shame or remorse, especially for something that occurred hours earlier. If someone did the same thing to you with a pile of dishes while screaming at you in a foreign language, you would have no idea what they wanted you to do. Wash them? Put them in the cupboard? Dry them? Stack them? You would be clueless, just like a dog is when a person is sticking their face in a puddle of urine. It’s an ineffective way to communicate, and will not produce positive results.

Myth #5

A young dog will grow out of unwanted behaviors on his own.

As in many areas of life, you need to put in the work if you want to get results. And in this case, if you let an unwanted behavior go on for too long it may get worse—and harder to change—as your dog ages. The earlier you can nip poor manners in the bud, the better.

You always want your dog to be the best version of themself, and that means putting in the work to teach and reinforce good behaviors. Dogs want to please—it just takes a little bit of effort to inform them on how. Take the time to train your dog, making sure to differentiate between “bad” behavior and simple misunderstandings. If you’re struggling to do it on your own, a certified dog trainer can help.

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