Tuesday Top Ten: Myths about Dogs

PawNation recently published a list of myths about dog behavior.  Have you ever fallen for one of these?  10. Dogs enjoy being hugged. People are by nature touchy-feely creatures. Dogs and cats on the other hand, grab and hold prey, and “hug” during mating or fighting. Pets may enjoy nuzzling and getting affection akin to hugging, or there may be a reason why they should be sensitized to being hugged, but it is good to remember that your pet may also confuse a hug with aggression.

9: Dogs that are aggressive are showing dominance. Actually, it is fearful dogs that most often aggress to make a scary situation go away. A top dog rarely aggresses because other dogs accept he’s the boss. You do however see pushy dogs learn to use snarls to get their way, or clueless adolescent dogs act up because they’ve gotten too big for their furry britches and want to challenge the real boss.

8: Dogs are jealous of the phone. The phone rings and suddenly your pet demands attention. This can certainly be annoying but their behavior is logical when you realize why they’re doing it. From you pet’s perspective, you’re talking and there’s nobody else around — so you must be talking to your pet!

7: Dogs wag their tails when they are happy. Not always. Dogs wag when excited, when fearful, when happy or even to signal imminent attack. The position of the tail, and frequency of wags, is a better indicator of happiness. Low-held tails with slow, loose wags usually signal, “Come closer; I want to be friends.”

6: Dogs learn only if you punish them.
No. Punishment actually can interfere with pets’ ability to learn. Punishment can make behaviors worse and can cause fear aggression. Instead, you need to teach an alternative to bad behavior.

5: Dogs catch on to house training more quickly when you rub their noses in their accidents. Absolutely not. But this does teach the dog that humans sometimes go nuts and seemingly want them to eat their poop! Talk about confusing. Punishing for a normal behavior like going to the bathroom encourages dogs to hide it better the next time. Instead, catch your dog in the act of targeting the right spot and reward with praise or treats for the most effective lesson.

4: Dogs destroy furniture and other items in the house because they are angry. There are many possible physical, emotional and/or instinctual reasons for these normal behaviors — none having to do with anger or vengefulness. Items that smell like you (bed, shoes, purse) are targeted because your scent comforts the pet. Consider that a back-handed compliment, not spite.

3: Dogs alpha roll each other. A study of captive wolves (later debunked) gave rise to this theory. Dogs roll onto their backs to expose their tummies to other animals — or people — and signal deference and nonthreat. Dogs willingly show their tummies to people or other dogs they want to placate or acquiesce. But even alpha dogs show their tummies to invite puppies and subordinate dogs to play. Dogs do not force other dogs onto their backs to prove leadership. Alpha rolling your dog may confuse or frighten him and some dogs even fight back. Don’t risk it!

2.  Dogs should have a litter before they are spayed. This is one of those myths that actually causes harm.  In addition to contributing to the terrible problem of pet overpopulation, allowing your dog to have a litter before spaying actually makes her more susceptible to cancer later in life.

1.  Table scraps are good for dogs. Although some table scraps are okay, sometimes the seasonings we use can be toxic for our canine friends.  Onions and garlic, in particular, are a problem.

Until next time,

Good day, and good dog!



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6 thoughts on “Tuesday Top Ten: Myths about Dogs”

  1. I just found your site and having become a new avid doggie lover (I have a siberian husky) I am impressed that you put a pic of a husky in your myth comments – they are most understood as dogs go.

    He is loving, happy and most of all, the laziest bum I’ve ever seen – some high energy dog….well he doesn’t fit that myth. His favourite thing is to lie around the couch, bed, floor….an hour walk and he’s done for the day :)

    Seriously – we need to stop profiling dogs…they are all individuals and different – some like hugs (he does) and some don’t. Know your animal….and you’ll both be happy.
    Thanks for listening…

  2. My dogs and cats loved to be hugged – the cats purred and the purring got louder
    the more one hugged them. The dogs, too, were very affectionate. . . as for the
    wagging tail thing, when accompanied with an almost relaxed smiling expression,
    meant “hug me for all my worth”!. Sometimes, there was an interchange of behaviour, I had a Lhasa Apso which was very catlike in that she was capricious
    and imperial, and sweet only when she chose to be. The last cat I had must have been a dog in his former life, when he followed me around from room to room and wanted to be constantly petted and hugged and was as goodnatured as could be. He was also relaxed around other people, and was friendly to other animals he met. The only thing he couldn’t do was bark!

  3. I am aware of dietary “no-no’s”; Brittany LOVES Italian tomato-sauced anything … pizza, spaghetti, lasagna. She never gets any more than the leftover scrapings from my plate but she sure can get beggingly demanding for them. never seems to bother her. Fresh tomatoes? Forgeddaboutit!

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