I’ve had the pleasure of working with many animal trainers over the years, including one of the best animal behaviorists in Texas, Michael Baugh. Dog training myths, for some reason, run rampant.
And they drive me f’ing nuts.
Here’s the thing: Just because you read something on the internet (ha, ha) doesn’t make it true. Please feel free to fact-check this piece when you’re finished reading. Let me know if you think I got something wrong.
Some dog training myths are merely annoying, but others can cause serious behavioral issues among our canine companions. And that needs to stop.
How Do Dog Training Myths Get Out of Control?
When you’re chatting with a friend over the phone and the subject of your dogs arises, your friend might say something like, “Oh, I heard that prong collars are the best way to stop pulling.”
A subtle jab at your pooch, who always seems to storm ahead like a locomotive.
You accept her advice as gospel because, well, she’s your friend. Then you tell other people who struggle with maintaining their dogs on walks.
Dog myths also get out of control when a so-called expert produces a YouTube video, writes an article, gives a speed, or otherwise spreads harmful messages.
That’s why you have to get in front of the rumors.
You can debunk dog training myths on your own by digging into the research. Start with scientific evidence. There’s plenty of literature out there about positive, modern, pain-free dog training methods.
What’s the Best Puppy or Dog Training Method?
There are hundreds of ways to train dogs. Many of them are super effective.
Rob Peladeau, a successful dog trainer who has worked with service animals, law enforcement K9s, and aggressive dogs, gave a wonderful speech during a Google talk. He says that the only thing three dog trainers can agree on is that the other two are wrong.
Peladeau brings up great points about so-called positive reinforcement training. It doesn’t mean that dogs never have consequences. It’s that you don’t need to use pain or force to get a response.
A consequence to misbehavior can be not getting a treat or stopping a game of fetch. Instead of adding something, such as an e-collar or other primitive training tool, you take something away.
There are times when you have to use force. For instance, if your dog bites your toddler, you’d better find a way to separate the dog from your child. We have to respond to misbehavior based on its severity.
So, what’s the best puppy or dog training method? The one that works for your dog, results in long-lasting positive behaviors, and doesn’t cause your dog anxiety or pain.
55 Dog Training Myths to Ignore Starting Now: Part One
Let’s get to the good stuff. You might be familiar with some of these dog training myths, but some may come as a surprise.
We’re all learning, right?
Here are the first 15 dog training myths to ignore right now. In a few days, I’ll have the next installment posted, and the last will come at the beginning of next week.
Let’s dive in.
1. Puppies can’t learn until they get older.
I’ve heard six weeks, nine weeks, and twelve weeks as milestones at which a puppy can begin training. It’s all bullshit.
Animals start to learn the moment their born. Even when they don’t have working eyes and ears, then sense their environment through smell. They know when Mom and siblings are close, when food is available.
I started training Piper, my Labrador mix, when she was nine weeks old. That’s the day we brought her home from CAP, one of my local animal shelters.
She had a pretty solid sit and lie down within two days. Stay took about a week, and leave it was almost instantaneous.
According to the VCA, many trainers won’t work with dogs under six months of age. The VCA issues a stern warning:
Actually, this juvenile stage is a very poor time to start. The dog is learning from every experience and delaying training means missed opportunities for the dog to learn how you would like him to behave.
The main caveat is to make sure you don’t overstress your young puppy. Short training sessions of 10 to 15 minutes work well.
Read the rest of my dog training myths on Medium.