Top Ten Dog Training Myths
By Will Bangura, M.S., CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, (Dog Behaviorist,) Certified Dog Behavior Consultant
Dog training is essential to dog ownership and helps establish a strong bond between the owner and the pet. However, there are many myths surrounding dog training that can be harmful and lead to ineffective training methods. This article will explore the top ten dog training myths and provide evidence-based information to help set the record straight.
Dog Training Myth #1
Dominance-based training is the most effective way to train dogs.
Fact: Dominance-based training involves physical force and intimidation to assert the owner’s dominance over the dog. This type of training can lead to fear, anxiety, and aggression in dogs and is not a recommended training method. Instead, positive reinforcement training methods are more effective and humane. This involves rewarding desired behaviors with treats, praise, or other forms of positive reinforcement.
Dog Training Myth #2
Only dominant dogs need training.
Fact: All dogs benefit from training, regardless of their temperament or dominance level. Training helps dogs learn good behaviors, improves their overall behavior, and strengthens the bond between the owner and their pet. In addition, training can help dogs with behavioral problems such as aggression, fear, and anxiety.
Dog Training Myth #3
You have to be dominant to train a dog.
Fact: An owner doesn’t need to assert their dominance over their dog to be an effective trainer. Instead, positive reinforcement training methods are based on mutual respect and clear communication. Positive reinforcement training aims to teach the dog what is expected of them and reinforce desired behaviors.
Dog Training Myth #4
Dogs can only learn a limited number of commands.
Fact: Dogs can learn an unlimited number of commands, but their attention span and learning ability will vary depending on their breed and individual personality. Consistent training and repetition are key factors in helping dogs retain and perform new commands.
Dog Training Myth #5
Punishment is the best way to correct bad behavior.
Fact: Punishing a dog for bad behavior can lead to fear, anxiety, and aggression. Instead, positive reinforcement training methods focus on redirecting the dog’s behavior to a desired action and rewarding that action. This helps the dog understand what is expected of them and reinforces good behavior.
Dog Training Myth #6
You should train your dog using treats all the time.
Fact: Treats can be an effective tool in positive reinforcement training, but they should not be the only form of reinforcement used. Treats should be used sparingly and in combination with other forms of positive reinforcement, such as praise, toys, and play. Overusing treats can lead to a dog becoming overweight and losing interest in training.
Dog Training Myth #7
Dogs understand human language and commands.
Fact: Dogs do not fully understand human language but can learn to associate certain words and commands with specific actions. Consistent and clear communication is key to effective training.
Dog Training Myth #8
You can train an older dog just as quickly as a young dog.
Fact: Older dogs may have established habits and behaviors that can be difficult to change. However, with patience and consistency, older dogs can still learn new behaviors and commands. It may take longer for older dogs to learn, but they can learn just as well as younger dogs.
Dog Training Myth #9
Training should only take place in a formal training class.
Fact: Training can take place anywhere and should be incorporated into the dog’s daily routine. This includes walks, playtime, and other interactions with the owner. Formal training classes can be beneficial, but they are not the only way to effectively train a dog.
Dog Training Myth #10
All dogs respond to the same training methods.
Fact: Each dog has a unique personality, learning style, and motivation. It is important to understand and assess each dog’s individual needs and tailor the training methods accordingly. For example, some dogs may respond better to verbal praise, while others may prefer physical affection or toys. It is essential to experiment with different forms of reinforcement and find what works best for each dog.
Many myths surrounding dog training can lead to ineffective training methods. It is important to stay informed and educate oneself on evidence-based training techniques to ensure the well-being and happiness of our canine companions. Positive reinforcement training methods are the most effective and humane way to train dogs. This involves rewarding desired behaviors with treats, praise, or other forms of positive reinforcement. Training should be a fun and enjoyable experience for both the owner and the dog, and the goal should be to establish a strong bond based on mutual respect and clear communication.
American Kennel Club. (n.d.). Positive Reinforcement Training. Retrieved from https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/positive-reinforcement-training/
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). (n.d.). Dominance-Based Training. Retrieved from https://www.spca.bc.ca/resources/dominance-based-training
The Humane Society of the United States. (n.d.). Dominance and Dog Training. Retrieved from https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/dominance-and-dog-training