Dog (& Cat!) Behavior Myths


Lore Haug, DVM of Texas A & M University, compiled this excellent list with additional input from the wonderful trainers of the APDT List.  All of the statements below have often been  repeated by well-meaning people, as well as the occasional "trainer." None of the following statements are either true or correct.  If, after reading this list, you have questions regarding why a particular statement is incorrect, please feel free to contact me. 


1. Puppies should not go to puppy classes/the mall/friend's houses until they have had all their vaccinations at 16 weeks of age."

2. Aggressive dogs are dominant.

3. Dogs pull on a leash/jump up on people because they are dominant.

4. If you let your dog sleep on the bed, he will become the alpha.

5. Don't bother castrating a cat or dog after he has started marking/roaming/fighting. It won't work because they have already learned the behavior.

6. It is important to rub a dog's nose in its feces or urine to properly housetrain it.

7. The only way to train a Rottweiler/German Shepherd Dog/Labrador/'insert breed' is to use a prong collar/shock collar/'insert tool' because they are stubborn/dominant/aggressive/'insert temperament'.

8. Dogs cannot learn from positive reinforcement. You have to punish them so they know when they are wrong.

9. My dog is aggressive towards strangers because he is protecting me.

10. If you use treats to train, you will always need them.

11. Dogs get lick granulomas because they are 'bored'.

12. He urinates inside/destroys the house/barks when we leave him alone because he is spiteful.

13. Cats pee on beds because they are mad at their owners.

14. All behaviorists/trainers are the same.

15. Dogs cannot be trained unless they are puppies.

16. Pit Bulls and Rottweilers are aggressive due to a "missing gene".

17. If a dog bites, as long as the dog slinks around, and acts "apologetic" afterward, then the dog has learned its lesson and will not bite again.

18. Once a dog bites and tastes blood, it will always bite again (i.e.it cannot be rehabilitated).

19. Dogs like hugs and kisses.

20. The dog doesn't like x person because it can smell their fear.

21. Neutering stops aggressive behavior.

22. Neutering a male dog is cruel because it takes away the dog's manhood.

23. Neutered dogs won’t do their jobs as well.

24. A female should have one litter before being spayed. It will help her calm down.

25. If you feed a dog human food, he will learn to beg.

26. Pit bulls have locking jaws.

27. Dogs live in packs.

28. Dogs alpha roll each other.

29. Cats cannot be trained.

30. Declawing makes cats bite.

31. My dog has Rage Syndrome.

32. But he was wagging when he bit me…

33. He knows he was bad because he looked guilty.

34. Cats don’t need socialization because they live in the house.

35. Dog parks are a great way to socialize dogs.

36. She tried to bite me but missed. I jumped away in time…

37. Dogs that kill small animals will then attack children.