3 Dog Training Myths debunked! 

Klarisse Galido - Editor in chief of Knose Pet Insurance

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Klarisse Galido

As the content curator of Knose, Klarisse is all about blending vet advice, practical pet tips, and stories from the pet-loving community. Her passion for pets brings to life the everyday joys and challenges of pet ownership.

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Dog training methods are a bit like the cast of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. There are lots of strong opinions, different communication styles, and a whole range of approaches that can leave dog owners very confused by all the drama. 

Because the industry is unregulated, and with social media being a main-stream education tool, there are so many different ways to train a dog; and endless quick-fix promises for the most common behaviour problems. But, here’s the thing – the quick fix promises, the TV glitz and the unqualified social media stars all have one thing in common. They are there to serve the owner’s needs, instead of the dog’s. 

Puppy laying on the grass -Knose
Pet owners need to educate themselves before starting their dog’s training.

There are so many dog training myths out there! This is why it is so important to utilise what we know through science when it comes to training our dogs. Research looks at the effect different tools, styles and methods have on a dog’s behaviour, but it also looks at what effect these have on a dog’s wellbeing. Interestingly, when it comes to physically punishing a dog, Bromme and Goldsman’s research shows that although this may temporarily change the dog’s behaviour, it often comes at the cost of the dog’s welfare. Often, the behaviour may actually worsen over time. In my experience, this is no surprise, given that many dog owners come to me after they have tried aversive methods without any success. 

So, what are my top three dog training myths?

1. Your dog needs to know who’s boss!

This is a really confusing myth, because I still hear it in conversation, and from the mouths of dog trainers! The idea of being the pack leader is actually an old and outdated philosophy based on observing dogs who were in captivity. The behaviour of captive dogs was much more hierarchical than wild dogs, probably because there was a great deal of stress and tension being in an enclosure. 

Labrador dog and his family smiling and resting on the park - Knose
As a pet owner, it is important to find other ways to keep them protected during training.

Wild dog behaviour is quite different, because there is a survival benefit to cooperate and support each other. Wild dogs are also very fluid in their leadership structure. The dog who is good at hunting leads the hunt. The dog who is good at defending the territory takes on a sentry role, and so on. So, when it comes to dogs living with us, the behaviours that are controlling and even defiant are likely due to the dog living in a stressful environment, just like the dogs observed in captivity. How a dog behaves toward their owner is a direct reflection of the relationship they have with them. 

Dogs don’t need a boss, they need a partnership. The best relationships are those based on trust and respect. Desirable behaviours from our dogs manifest from us understanding their needs, putting their welfare first and respecting that they are an emotional being with thoughts and feelings. 

2. Your dog must always obey you 

Obedience is a word used a lot in dog training, but if a dog obeys you, what does that say about your relationship? There is a difference between your dog respecting you, and obeying you. Often dogs will not do as we ask for reasons outside being disobedient. For instance, if you cue a dog to sit and they don’t, it may be because they were distracted and unable to focus. It may be because they didn’t hear you, or they haven’t quite got the gist of what you’re asking. It might be because the grass is wet, or they have arthritis and it is painful for them to sit. There are so many reasons why dogs don’t do what they are asked. It is important that we ask them why and adjust our expectations. 

This is definitely one of the dog training myths that must be debunked. It is so important to remember that dogs are not robots and that their behaviour is a symptom of how they are feeling at the time. If you don’t like the behaviour, it is best to ask yourself what you can do to change how your dog feels. When we change how our dog feels, we can get the best out of them. 

Cavoodle dog training outdoors with pet owner - Knose
Dog training should always be a partnership.

3. Your dog must always walk beside you

There are some dog training myths especially in obedience training that don’t exactly make sense. Outside of obedience trials, expecting a dog to ‘heel’ alongside you on every walk doesn’t have much benefit to the dog or the owner. It is definitely worth teaching a dog to walk alongside you, checking-in with eye contact here and there, and communicating with you on a walk. However, a walk for a dog needs to be experienced through their nose as well. Dogs who walk on a long and loose lead in front of their owner, taking in the world through their senses, are generally much more fulfilled and engaged with not just their surroundings, but with their owner too. 

I have always believed that it is far better to have a well-behaved dog by their own choice rather than force. So, if your dog chooses to walk alongside you, proudly accepting the odd treat and praise as you stroll together, it can be beautiful to see. But it is also wonderful to observe an owner a couple of metres back, as the dog calmly explores a shrub up ahead. The best way to make this work is to build a relationship with your dog first. That means, when you say your dog’s name, they listen in anticipation of what you are going to get up to next. It also means that your dog will come back when called and that there is a real bond based on trust and respect before heading out on the pavement. 

Walks don’t need to be around your local streets either. You can keep exercise interesting by visiting new places, such as bush walks, beach visits, new parks and suburbs that smell different. This encourages a form of exercise not only for your dog’s mind but for their body as well.  

Related resources to dog training:

Post by Laura V © for Knose Pet Insurance 

Laura V is deeply dedicated to enhancing the lives of dogs beyond recognising their thoughts and feelings. Laura’s approach goes beyond traditional training. She integrates behavioural medicine, education, and psychology to foster long-lasting bonds between dogs and their owners. Her muse, Chester, has inspired her to live purposefully. Laura aims to share insights and guidance to help others provide the best care and companionship for their dogs.

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