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Local Woof: Debunking Common Dog-Training Myths

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Editor’s Note: The Local Woof is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff of Woofs! Dog Training Center. Woofs! has full-service dog training, boarding, and daycare facilities, near Shirlington and Ballston.

Dogs were domesticated at least 15,000 years ago. Today Americans keep about 78 million dogs as pets. 78 MILLION!

In all of that time, and with all of those dogs, lots of dog knowledge has been accumulated. As in any field of study, we are constantly learning new things and replacing old theories with new evidence.

Some of these old ideas have made it into our common beliefs about dogs. Unfortunately, some of these sticky ideas are just plain wrong. Worse yet, some have proven to be very damaging to our relationship with our dogs and other animals.

Learning the truth about dogs is important. Knowing what makes your dog tick paves the way to a deeper understanding and better relationship. Most importantly, understanding why your dog does what he does can make training and problem solving much easier.

Here is a partial list of the most common, incorrect beliefs about dogs.

Playing tug will make your dog aggressive. This is not true. Dogs love to play tug because it is a natural behavior for them. Especially puppies. Giving your dog an outlet for their tugging desires can help to teach them not to tug on your pant leg, your curtains or your child’s skirt. It is also relatively easy to establish rules to make sure the game stays under control.

Dogs inherently want to please people. This is absolutely not true and one of the more damaging myths about dogs. To begin with, it makes no biological sense. Secondly, your relationship with your dog is like any other relationship you have, it is a give and take. Your dog does like to please you, but mostly because it means good things for the dog. A nice comfortable spot on the bed, regular feedings and good belly rubs are the real reasons your dog goes out of his way to make you happy. Expecting your dog to do what you say because you think he should want to please you often leads to anger and frustration when you don’t get the result you expect.

These myths are just the tip of the iceberg. If you want to know more, the APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) has an entire page devoted to helping people better understand their dog by debunking common myths.

In addition, WOOFS! owner Laura Sharkey will be giving a free talk on this topic this Saturday at 2 pm in Bethesda Md. You can register here for the seminar.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

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