Old dog, new tricks? – Let’s talk about dog training myths

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Old dog, new tricks? – Let’s talk about dog training myths

When it comes to training your dog, everyone seems to have an opinion and sometimes it can be difficult to ignore outdated advice and trust your own instincts, particularly when you don’t always get instant results. It is also all too easy to find information online – but how do you know if it’s correct? This week we take a look at some dog training myths and how to get the best type of training for your dog. 

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks

We all know the old saying, which is possibly why so many people still believe it is true. But in fact it is very easy to teach an old dog some new tricks. When it comes to dogs – as with most humans – age is just a number! Dogs continue to learn throughout their lives and it is never too late (or too early) to start teaching them new things. Perhaps part of the reason that people believe this myth is because ‘old habits die hard’ but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to train a dog out of a bad habit and teach them a new way of doing things. Teaching an older dog some new tricks could actually be incredibly beneficial to them as it will stimulate their brain and keep them engaged, so make some time to see what you can learn together! Use positive reinforcement and lots of patience and you’ll be amazed what you and your dog can achieve between you.

Dog pic by Dan Barrett on UnsplashDog pic by Dan Barrett on Unsplash

You must be the leader of the pack

You may be familiar with the concept of the ‘alpha’ and that some dog trainers may encourage you to present yourself to your dog as the leader of the pack. Doing things like making them eat after you have eaten and being subservient to you, rather than working together as a team.

The whole concept of the ‘alpha’ wolf in relation to dog training was developed in the 1970s and based on observations of wolves in captivity – where they may be modifying their behaviour – rather than in the wild. Because wolves are our domestic dog’s closest relative these observations were used to model how we should behave in relation to our pet – but since then it has been debunked many times over. Even the guy who did the research and wrote the book about it, titled ‘The Wolf’ – American biologist L. David Mech – has tried to have it removed from the shelves as he no longer believes it to be true. Unfortunately though, his findings have not only found their way into dog training practices but they have also seeped into popular culture too and you'll see alpha roles depicted in lots of films and TV shows reinforcing this outdated idea. 

The truth is, dogs don’t need an alpha. In our house the dog seems to listen to me the most but this is not because I am an alpha, it’s probably because I am the matriarch and because I feed him and take him for walks more often than everyone else. What dogs need is a teacher and a guide, with good communication skills. Someone that can read their body language and respond to their needs with positive reinforcement, rather than dominating them or pressuring them to behave in a certain way.

Happy lab pic by Jonathan Daniels on UnsplashHappy lab pic by Jonathan Daniels on Unsplash

You can only train a dog with food

Of course it is commonly established that the best way to train a dog is with positive reinforcement rather than punishment, but a lot of people think that to reward a dog you have to give them a physical, edible treat. This just isn't true. 

A reward can be anything that makes your dog feel good – such as verbal praise, cuddles, playtime or letting them off the lead to have some fun. You know your dog better than most and it’s quite easy to train them to understand that if they behave in a certain way, then good things will happen – plus it means that you don’t have to walk around with a pocket full of dog treats all day long!

Dog treat pic by Petr Magera on UnsplashDog treat pic by Petr Magera on Unsplash

Don’t let your dog upstairs or in the bedroom

Most dogs like to be as close to their owners as possible and realistically it won’t do them or you any harm. The only issue with sharing your bed or bedroom with your dog is how practical it is.

According to experts from the Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, letting your dog sleep in bed is good for you and can help you get a good night’s sleep, as dogs sleeping patterns coincide closely with human ones. People who share a bed with their dogs are more likely to go to bed earlier and get up earlier as well, which is also better for you.

Dog in bed pic by Brooke Cagle on UnsplashDog in bed pic by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

If you have any concerns about how to train your dog, then we recommend contacting a decent local dog trainer to help you work on any problems. The Blue Cross and Battersea Dogs Home have lots of great dog training videos and tips on their websites, and if you’re going to learn your dog training tips online, make sure you get them from a professional sources like these - not some random dude on TikTok!

Have you busted any dog training myths with your pet pooch? As always, let us know in the comments section below

Main Pic: Dogs by Petr Magera on Unsplash

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