Myths can be described as stories, events, or even advice widely accepted and put into practice for generations, but they aren’t necessarily true. There are myths about pretty much everything, including dog-related topics. So, how can we know what actually works?
Dogs, especially puppies, can get out of hand when it comes to biting and nipping. The first myth on our list claims that biting your dog on the ear can help an owner display dominance and get the dog to stop biting. Crazy, right? But is there any truth to this? Although dogs will bite one another in acts of aggression or as a warning, CKC does not recommend taking a bite out of your dog.
So how can you stop an unruly puppy from biting? If a puppy starts getting nippy during play, make a loud noise, like a yelp, to signal that what they did hurt you - even if it was not that bad. Stop playing with the puppy until they calm down, then resume the play. If the puppy bites again, repeat. The puppy will soon understand that if they bite, then they won’t get to play. Doing this is what dog experts call inhibition training. It is training that needs to be practiced early on, so biting does not get worse or more out of control as the dog gets older. If the biting is the result of a dog with aggression issues, it’s better to use other training methods or get help from a professional dog trainer.
Many tales tell of dogs finding their way home over long distances and across unfamiliar terrains. But how do they do it? Stanley Coren, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, studied this myth. In his article published in September 2022, he “found that around 60% of dogs used their noses to track their way back to their handlers, while some 30% tend to take a north-south jog following a geomagnetic line, which seems to help them get their bearings, much like a compass.” So it’s a combination of a sense of smell and a directional sense that helps them find their way home. The closer to home a dog gets, the better chance they have of returning as the smells become more familiar and provide a trail for them to follow.
For this myth, there is no definitive proof that a dog feels grief when they lose their canine companion, but there are changes that occur. One study looked at the effects losing a canine housemate had on the surviving dog. The results were significant. In many cases, the surviving dog would eat less, be less playful, take on more clingy behavior, and even whine or bark more. Yet, these are explained as the dog experiencing a form of separation anxiety instead of what we understand as grief. The surviving dog’s reaction could also be a response to their owner’s grief over the animal's death. Dogs are acutely aware of their owner’s emotional responses to situations, even if they may not fully understand. Conversely, some dogs were reported to not show much of a change at all when it came to losing a companion. It depended on how close the two were within a home.
People are busy, which can result in many dogs being left at home for long periods. Dogs are pack animals, so it makes sense that separation anxiety comes in full force when their “pack” leaves. In response, many people might tell you, “Just get your dog a friend!” While this might seem like a good idea, is it really the best solution? Unfortunately, this advice might not be the best for you or your dog. In one study performed at the Academy for Animal Naturopathy in Dürnten, Switzerland, researchers sought to determine if having a housemate actually helped with separation anxiety. They were surprised to find out that not only did adding a second dog to the home not help, but in some instances, it actually exacerbated the situation. Dogs that lived by themselves were calmer while their owners were away, while dogs in a multi-dog household were found to be more stressed.
Training is the best way to help any dog with separation anxiety. Getting a dog used to a kennel or to being alone can help them in the long run. Adding another dog to a situation with existing separation anxiety will only add to the problem instead of serving as a quick solution.
It can be funny when a dog “talks back” to their owners or when a person in a video has a hurt leg and a dog follows them holding up their paw. But why do dogs do that? Are they mimicking our behaviors? Actually, yes! It is a form of automatic imitation similar to how babies and children learn by copying the adults around them. In one study conducted by Friederike Range, Ludwig Huber, and Cecilia Heyes, they observed what happened when dogs watched their human open a sliding door - some with their hand and some with their head. Dogs were rewarded for imitating the same behavior, using the alternate behavior, or not imitating at all. “All of the dogs were still more inclined to imitate whatever their pack leader did.” Dogs observe and imitate as a way of fitting in with their “pack” and as a survival technique.
Want to train your pup to mimic you? While children tend to remember these imitations and build on them, a dog's memory doesn't last as long. So unless a specific behavior is repeated and rewarded through training and conditioning, the chances of a dog mimicking their owner consistently on its own are slim.
We hope this video answered a few of your questions about dog myths you might have seen or heard. Make sure to do your research and talk to experts or a veterinarian before trying anything with your own dog.
Don’t forget to check out our previous videos on dog myths, where we look at the “Top 10 Dog Myths Debunked” and “6 More Dog Myths”. Know some other dog myths we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments.
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