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Monthly Archives: October 2011


The world of dog training and behavior is wrought with misinformation and misconceptions about dog behavior, which ultimately leads to inappropriate practices. Have you been “Googling” dog behavior? have you been critically evaluating what you have been reading? It is easy to just take what you find on the internet as “gospel” when it comes to dog training, but often times, the information that pops up is just plain inaccurate. This is problematic if you attempt some of the techniques suggested or accept some of the reasons given for WHY your dog has the behavior problems  he has.

Here’s a common example:

A dog owner looks up information or calls a trainer because their dog is threatening unfamiliar people either on the walk or in their home.  So they read or are told the following:

1. They are being too permissive with their dog, so they are not being seen as the “Alpha.” 

2. They need to make sure they are not allowing the dog in the bed or on the furniture.

3. They need to feed the dog after the humans have eaten.

4. They need to make sure the dog is not going through the door ahead of them or walking ahead of them on the leash because that means they are allowing the dog to be “dominant.” 

5. They need to give a hard leash correction (a hard jerk on the leash when the dog growls or barks at unfamiliar people) and/or make the dog “submit” by forcing him to the ground and making him  (I love this one) “relax.” Would you relax if you were pinned to the ground by your neck when you were already in a fearful, panicked state? 

ALL of this advice is NOT based in scientific theory or research. If you just stop and think for a minute, you’ll realize that none of this really makes a whole lot of sense. Let’s put it in terms we can relate to. 

Suppose you had a fear of flying. Whenever you even hear a plane, you get a bit nervous. If you get close to one or sit on one, you begin to panic. Now, think about the techniques mentioned above in numbers 1-5. If you called a therapist about this problem, and they suggested that they really needed to speak with your boss and/or your husband or wife and talk about being more strict with you at work or home, do you think this would help you learn to like flying? What if they went on to say that they were going to put a device on you that delivered a shock when you began to panic on the plane. Maybe you would begin to stop reacting, but would you learn to LIKE flying? What if someone wrestled you to the ground and held you there when you began to panic? Are you going to like flying then? 

OF COURSE NOT! So, when you are reading about or discussing your dog’s behavior issues with a trainer, be sure to apply the critical thinking skills you already have and ask yourself, “Does this make sense?” If the answer is “no” or the techniques suggested make you uneasy, that’s probably your intuition setting off alarms! LISTEN TO THEM! 

 If you are evaluating trainers, you should hear them talk about learning theory, what the current research shows, and researched-based methods. Unfortunately, none of the commonly suggested techniques or reasons for a dog’s particular behavior are based in science.

Be a critical consumer of information rather than taking for granted that the information you are getting is accurate.