SHELBY MARLO
Top Ten Myths and Realities About Dogs
The following are some popular myths about dogs:
Myth 1. Don't start training a dog until he is six months old.
Myth 2. Keep the puppy behind closed doors until he's had all his shots to keep him safe from diseases like Parvo Virus
Myth 3. The puppy chews on you because he is teething.
Myth 4. Don't neuter or spay your dog because it will get fat, lose its desire for life, and suffer severe personality changes. 
Myth 5. Dogs are little people in furry coats.
Myth 6. Dogs have a desire to please.
Myth 7. Crates are like jails—ostracizing, mean, and cruel.
Myth 8. When the dog does something wrong, just say "no."
Myth 9. You cannot be indulgent with your dog and have him be well behaved.
Myth 10. Dogs know when they've been bad.

Myth 1.  Don't start training a dog until he is six months old. 

Common belief was that a dog could not be trained until he was at least six months old. In actuality, the delay was not because the dog was not trainable but because of the methodology used. Training used to be a very negative and often a harsh process and thus was not advised for the young puppy - and should not have been used for dogs of any age for that matter. Training methods were so harsh that a dog had to be of a certain age to withstand that level of abuse. Waiting for adolescence to train had nothing to do with the dog's learning ability. We now know that adolescence is the least desirable time to begin training. At six months old a puppy has already undergone a lot of negative learning and is now at the onset of puberty. If a puppy is old enough to leave its mother and littermates, it is old enough to be trained with kind and gentle method.

A puppy is as capable of learning as an adult dog. At seven weeks, a puppy's brain waves are the same as those of an adult dog. Puppies are little sponges soaking up every bit of information they come in contact with. If you do not show them what you want them to do, they're going to figure out their own way. They learn that it's fun to chew the couch. They learn that urinating on the carpet brings relief. They learn whether you are involved or not, so you might as well be involved and teach correct alternatives to their natural, little puppy inclinations. Still, some vets, breeders, and wise old dog people are remiss in their failure to recognize this.
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Myth 2.  Keep the puppy behind closed doors until he's had all his shots to keep him safe from diseases like Parvo Virus.  

Keeping the dog behind closed doors is not the panacea you think it to be. Unless this dog is living in a bubble, he will never be safe from exposure to disease. You can step in animal waste and inadvertently track it into your home on the soles of your shoes. In fact, isolating your young puppy from the world could foster more harm than good. If you don't socialize your puppy prior to three months of age, you run the very real risk of creating a fearful, antisocial dog.

By taking calculated risks like going to a puppy class where all participants are vaccinated and healthy; visiting with friends who have healthy dogs; taking the puppy for drives in the car on errands; and having puppy parties to which you invite puppy acquaintances of all colors, sizes, and ages, you will create a well-rounded, confident adult dog that is worldly in his views of the human realm.
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Myth 3.  The puppy chews on you because he is teething. 

Yes, the puppy may be teething. More likely, he is treating you like another puppy, and he's exploring his world and boundaries with you. You must teach your puppy not to place his teeth on you. Do not indulge him because you think it is something he needs to do. You are not his chew toy. Some mouthing is necessary to help teach bite inhibition. Otherwise, you could end up with a dog that has a hard bite and you, the owner could end up with a hefty lawsuit.
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Myth 4.  Don't neuter or spay your dog because it will get fat, lose its desire for life, and suffer severe personality changes. 

Dogs get fat for the same reason people get fat: too much food and not enough exercise. The specific changes in a male are simply due to the fact that he no longer has a strong desire to roam, fight, mount, and otherwise exhibit undesirable behaviors. If you feel these behaviors are not a problem with your dog, then neuter him to prevent prostate and testicular cancer. Females that have been spayed before their first estrous cycle will not develop uterine cancer, breast cancer, or other female ailments. Spayed or neutered, dogs have been shown to live longer, healthier lives. 

Obviously, spaying and neutering your dog helps put an end to the tragic overpopulation of dogs. More than six million animals are euthanized in pounds and shelters every year. This figure does not include the countless number of dogs that are killed on the street or starve to death. We spend over one billion dollars every year to euthanize dogs, yet we blithely call them "man's best friend". Even if you decide to breed your dog and find the puppies homes, you are still not exempt. Those homes you found for your puppies were homes that would have probably adopted another dog already in need of a home. You merely add to the surplus, the grief, and the heartache by breeding your dog. Leave breeding to the reputable hobby breeders.
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Myth 5. Dogs are little people in furry coats.

Dogs are very different from people. They might as well be aliens from another planet. While dogs do share some of our similarities—being social animals, having the ability to care for their young, and developing strong bonds—they do not share our ability for abstract thought. Dogs do not think about the past or future or feel guilt or vengeance. Dogs do not share our moral codes. This does not make them bad creatures, merely different. Problems occur when we wrongly impose our views on them. We expect too much of our dogs. We must accept the fact that dogs are not little people in furry coats. We need to understand that what we value has no bearing on what a dog values.
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Myth 6. Dogs have a desire to please.

Dogs, like every other organism, are driven by survival. The fact that your dog does not have a desire to please you does not mean you cannot have an intense, loving relationship with him. If your dog does not come when you call him, it's not because he doesn't love you. It's because you have not properly reinforced coming or because a competing motivation is more powerful. Strengthening a command entails finding a powerful motivator such as a treat or a toy.
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Myth 7. Crates are like jails -- ostracizing, mean, and cruel.

Dogs are den animals by nature. They tend to seek small, confined spaces like under a bed or table or in a cubbyhole. To a dog a crate is safety, security, and a place of his own. Crates are incredibly useful tools for housebreaking as well as preventing destructive behaviors like chewing. When placed in a high traffic area, the dog still feels he is part of the family. At some point in your dog's life, he is going to be placed in a crate whether at the vet's, at the groomer's, or while traveling. It's always a good idea to acclimate the dog from the start to avoid future trauma.
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Myth 8. When the dog does something wrong, just say "no."

Certainly a dog can be trained using the word "no". However, it is more educational, fair, and easy to use an instructive reprimand. This means using a word that not only tells a dog to stop what he's doing but also instructs him in what he should do. For example, if the dog is caught eliminating in the house, you say, "Outside," teaching him that potty is a location issue and therefore he should eliminate outside. If the dog is jumping up on a person, you say, "off," telling him he should get off the person. If the dog is barking, you say "quiet," and he should become quiet. Instructive reprimands are specific to the current behavior or action. Your dog may stop when he hears "no," but he still has to pee. An instructive reprimand gives him a correct direction.
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Myth 9. You cannot be indulgent with your dog and have him be well behaved.

You can be as indulgent as you want with your dog as long as boundaries and training are in place and he views you as a leader. My dogs are allowed in my bed and I feed them from the table. I do not have problems with my dogs because I am a strong leader. If I want my dogs to get off my bed, I tell them to get off and they do. If I don't want them hanging around my dining room table while I'm eating, I simply tell them to go lie down and they do. These are privileges that I bestow upon my dogs, and I take great joy in doing so without losing their respect.
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Myth 10. Dogs know when they've been bad.

Dogs don't think in abstract terms, and guilt is an abstraction. If your dog's ears are back, his tail is tucked, and he has an overall low body posture, he may look guilty. We misinterpret the dog's slinking as a sign of guilt but that isn't what he's feeling. People falsely believe the dog thinks, "If only I hadn't chewed the couch."

Your dog assumes a submissive body posture as a direct reaction to your signs of anger. When you come home and punish your dog for chewing the couch, he does not associate his act with his punishment. He associates his punishment with your homecoming and learns to fear your arrivals. This can exacerbate the situation because he becomes anxious about you coming home and chews the couch even more.
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Copyright 2000-2011 Shelby Marlo