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Thursday, 29 May 2014

Dog Training Myths... Busted!

There are a lot of myths lingering around about dogs and dog training.
Dig It are here to help with a series of blog posts looking into the myths around dog training and dog sports such as agility and flyball, but firstly, dog behaviour and training technique myths!

  • My dog is a wolf
Dogs are genetic descendants from the wolf and do share the majority of their DNA. However the wolves that dogs were domesticated from have long been extinct and the wolves of today are a lot more human-wary. New studies suggest that dogs descended from a range of different Canidae species and not one specific wolf species. Furthermore previous comparison studies on dogs and wolves were scientifically flawed and today we can firmly prove that it is inappropriate to compare a dog with a wolf.

  •  I must be dominant over my dog

Dominance is defined as "a relationship between individual animals that is established to determine who has priority access to resources such as food, resting spots and mates." Dominance is therefore not appropriate in the human to dog relationships as there is no competition for resource as each individual has ample amounts of resource. We feed our dogs, we provide them with a bed and we do not compete with them for a mate. Dominance is also out of place in human-dog relationships as we cannot communicate effectively with a dog as another dog can. Furthermore most unruly behaviours from dogs do not occur because they are trying to gain higher rank, but because these behaviour have previously been rewards, knowingly or not. As well as all of this, the "dominance theory" is from the study on wolves, and we have already learnt that we should not treat our dogs as wolves.

  • My dog cannot sleep in my bed with me
 This is your decision. If you have a kind and positive relationship with your dog then allowing a dog to sleep in your bed should not create behaviour problems.

  • I should roll my dog on its back and pin it to the floor (“alpha roll”)
 This theory comes from wolf comparisons which are unscientific and not appropriate for dog interactions. Furthermore dominant wolves do not do this to submissive wolves. In actual fact the submissive wolves voluntarily roll on their backs to show their submission. 

  • My dog should work for me because it loves me
Dogs do get a level of enjoyment from positive interactions with humans; however they also need an amount of reward, such a verbal, touch, food and play rewards. A dog will repeat behaviours more willingly if they have previously been associated with a pleasurable outcome.

  • Playing tug of war will make my dog aggressive
We’ll let Dr. John Bradshaw’s study answer this one;  "Dogs were allowed to win tug-of-war games played with a person, over and over again; understandably, this made the dog more keen to play with people than when they were forced to lose every time, but there were no signs indicating that any dog became 'dominant' as a result."

  • I must not let my dog win tug of war
See answer to previous myth!

  • I should always eat before my dog
Yet another myth which comes from the dominance theory, and since we have now discovered that dominance theory does not apply to dogs, neither does this myth. In real life, isn't it better to eat either before or after your dog, depending on what’s convenient for you? You have the opposable thumbs and make the decisions, after all, and have control of all the food resources, so you’re in charge.


  1. Nice little article...and lovely picture :)

    1. I know right, some amazing photographer took it :)