5 Puppy Myths (Part 1)
by Katie Spruill KPA-CTP
1. Dogs wag their tail when they are happy. Although it is common for dogs to wag their tail when they are happy, don’t be fooled, wagging can mean many things. Sometimes tail wags can be signs of stress, fear, or anxiety. So how do you know when it is a happy tail wag? The tighter the wag, the more stress the dog is experiencing. If it is moving slowly or in short movements, the less happy the wag is. The absolute best way to tell if your dog is wagging its tail in a good way is by looking at the rest of the body language. Is the dog loose? Is the dog’s whole-body wiggling or swaying back and forth? Is the dog’s mouth open and relaxed? This mean the wag is likely a sign of happiness. Knowing how to read your body language is a vital skill when raising a dog.
2. Rub their nose in it. Potty training is one of the hardest things to handle for new puppy parents, understandably so! There are many myths, methods, and theories about potty training, but the most hazardous one is the idea that when your dog has an accident in the house, you should rub their nose in it, yell or spank them, and then take them outside. When you do this your puppy probably isn’t associating going potty inside with the punishment, but is more likely associating you with punishment. Countless pet owners have struggled with their dog taking too much time to go potty on walks, or their dog hides behind the sofa and goes potty in the house anyway. This is because the dog has learned it is dangerous to go in front of the owner and doesn’t want to go in front of them, which makes its really hard when you want to reinforce the appropriate behavior of going outside!
3. Crates are cruel. If a crate is used as a punishment tool or you leave a dog in a crate for long hours then the crate can be seen as cruel. But most dogs, when introduced to their crate properly, love hanging out in their crate. The den-like set up of a crate is something a lot of dogs naturally love and even use to comfort themselves in times of stress. Sometimes it takes a little training, but being comfortable in a crate is a skill that every dog should have. It is a great tool for potty training and can be used to give a restless puppy a break. It can also be used in an emergency. If your dog gets hurt and needs to go to the vet, it isn’t too far-fetched (pun intended) that they may have to be crated and stay overnight in a crate while they heal. Or if there is a family emergency and you need to have your dog boarded, what happens if they can’t be boarded because they aren’t comfortable in their room? What if you are having construction done on your house and workers are walking in and out? A crate can be an effective tool to keep your dog safe from running out of the front door. The examples are endless, but it’s clear. A crate is far more beneficial when your dog is happy to be in one.
4. They grow out of it. Although puppies tend to shed away some behaviors as they mature, behaviors that are practiced and repeated, only get worse. Sure, your puppy might bite less when they are done teething and might calm down a bit with age, but that is only if unwanted behavior is responded to in an appropriate way. For example, many adult dogs still jump up and painfully play bite their owners because they accidently learned that biting can be a fun game, i.e. have been swatted or pushed away in an exciting manner. This is why dog trainers urge you to reach out for training when you begin having issues, before unwanted behaviors have already been well established. Early training works as a vaccine for unpleasant behavior.
5. A tired puppy is a good puppy. Many people do their best to tire their puppies out with long walks and play dates, in an effort to have a puppy that sleeps through the night. Puppies absolutely need exercise and mental stimulation, but not as much as you may think. Young dogs, especially under six months old, should be treated like a toddler. They need plenty of breaks for naps so they don’t get overly tired. Puppies that don’t get breaks never learn to regulate themselves and are more likely to exhibit unwanted behavior. If over exercised they can develop joint issues from strain on their developing bodies. Tired puppies always remind me of the little kid crying in the grocery store. They are probably due for a nap and therefore they act out.