Some of the most common myths or misconceptions about dogs are simple things like misreading body language or being taught incorrect information. We are here to help make sure you have the facts about dogs and their behavior.
Holding your hand out for the dog to sniff your scent is the best way to greet them.
Dogs do not react well to something coming straight at their face for any reason. It's comes off as threatening to them. If you are nervous or hesitant around the pup, they can sense that and will also feel less at ease. If it is a dog that has a history of biting, it may be more likely to bite in this situation. It is better to approach the dog from the side while the owner maintains control of the dog's head using the leash or slip lead. Begin petting him slowly on the backside and gradually working your way up toward the head. By the time you're near his neck or ears, the dog already understands who you are and that you do not pose a threat.
A dog is happy if the tale is wagging.
The positioning of a dog's tail shows the mood more than the wagging motion. If the tail is sticking straight up, this tells us the dog is being dominant. If the tail is even with the body, moving or wagging from side to side, they are happy and submissive. When the tail is tucked between the legs, this dog is in fear. When a dog is in fear he may be more prone to striking and can be unpredictable.
Dogs feel emotion.
Owners often think they are hurting the dog's feelings if they yell or discipline their pup. Many even think of the dog being sensitive like a child is sensitive. This causes them to be afraid of hurting the dog emotionally. But dogs do not have feelings in the same way as humans. A dog's feelings are a direct reflection of our own emotions and reactions.
For example, in the wild, if a dog accidentally steps on another dog's foot, none of them react. In contrast, if a human accidentally steps on a dog's foot, we pet him, apologize, and sooth the potential injury. Instead of showing comfort like the human intended, they really have shown weakness to the dog.
Another misunderstanding is that if a dog looks sad then that must be how he is feeling internally. A dog that is being respectful will have its ears back and tail down but not tucked under or may approach you in almost a bow position. Humans generally see this as pouting or being upset but this really means he is relaxed and respectful.
Food should be left in a dog's bowl for when he wants a snack.
We call this type of feeding "free-feeding". Food is affection to a dog. The perceived constant affection may cause the pup to ignore your verbal commands. His mindset will switch away from respecting his owner to earn affection and pleasing the owner to not feeling the need to pay attention to them because their needs are already met.
We encourage feeding to be more structured and become a ritual for the dog. Your dog must understand that food is earned by being good all day. Water does not have this same affect and can be kept out all day. If there is food left in his bowl after the meal, remove it and place a new meal in front of him at the next feeding time. Your vet can recommend the best feeding schedule for your pup based on size, energy level, breed and other factors individual to each dog.
We break apart 6 more dog myths in Dog Myths Part 2: the truth about dog behavior. Don't miss it!