PDSA advice: Canine training myths busted
Bringing a new pup home is an exciting time but it can also be daunting getting to grips with pet ownership.
Training, in particular, can feel overwhelming for a new owner, and it is sometimes easy to pick up the wrong habits. Getting the basics nailed early on will put you on the right track to success and help to build a special bond with your four-legged friend.
PDSA Vet Nurse Nina Downing said: “Many of us will be aware of techniques focused on punishment, which essentially scare pets in an attempt to change their behaviour. However, these leave our canine companions frightened and confused, and can lead to further undesirable tendencies. It’s important to remember that reward-based training methods will always generate the best results, building trust while having fun along the way!”
Myth: “I need to teach my dog who is boss or they won't respect me”
“Scaring your dog into submission will only lead to a lack of trust, slower learning, and could even encourage further negative behaviour as your dog will feel frightened. Respect is earned by setting clear and consistent boundaries early on. Instead of shouting, try using a firm ‘no’ to get your dog’s attention and stop what they’re doing. When your pup does something that you want them to do, always reward them with a healthy treat and lots of praise straight away, ideally while they’re still doing the behaviour or immediately after.”
Myth: “Punishment teaches dogs how to behave”
“Punishing your pup may stop their unwanted behaviour in the moment, but it doesn’t address why they’re doing it in the first place, so there’s every chance that they’ll do it again. It’s similar to us being shouted at with no explanation as to what we’ve done wrong. Reward-based training proven to work best, as pets learn to associate the behaviour with getting something they want.”
Myth: “Using a rattle will stop my dog from barking”
“Rattle cans are often loud and scary enough to stop dogs from barking but aren’t the best solution. They can make pets anxious about noise, causing barking! If a dog's barking is getting out of hand, consider consulting a behaviourist to help.
Myth: If my dog is scared of something, they just need to learn it won't hurt them”
“Forcing dogs to interact with something they’re scared of is likely to only worsen their stress and could even cause them to lash out, so it’s important not to put them in a situation where they feel uncomfortable. If your dog has a phobia, speak to your vet. They will be able to prescribe medication to help if needed, and refer you to a certified behaviourist who can design a plan to help them overcome their anxiety in a positive way.”