9 Doggie Myths Busted - Simply For Dogs
Doggie Myths

9 Doggie Myths Busted


Almost a month ago, I ran into a woman in the local pet market, who had a very young lab mix with her while she shopped. The puppy was happily bouncing down the toy aisle while the woman picked up one item after another, putting them all away. At times, she would squeeze the toys, making them squeak, and the puppy would get very clearly excited. His bum was up, tail wagging, and his eyes were just sparkling. He obviously wanted to play with that toy. But the woman kept putting it back. I was shopping for a new Nylabone, because Leroy goes through one about every couple of weeks, and couldn’t help but watch this woman teasing her poor pup with these toys she wasn’t planning to buy.

I would have gone on my way, shaking my head at her behavior, but she stopped me when she saw the pile of toys in my basket. She pointed at the bright yellow and blue toys in my collection and said “Why do you bother buying those? Your dog can’t even see the colors, and they don’t make noise or anything.”

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I was confused, until she kept talking, and then it all made sense. This lady thought that dogs see in black a white – a common misconception – and had decided that that meant that she shouldn’t bother with colorful toys. She’d been picking up toys and putting them back because she was looking for toys that weren’t colorful. I admit the logic didn’t really make sense to me, but it did bring up an important point: many dog owners still believe a lot of myths about dogs that could lead to poor pups not getting to play with toys they would love. So after explaining that dogs can actually see blue and yellow, just not red and green, I came home and started researching other dog myths that people are still passing around. Here just a few that I’ve found, and the truth behind them.

(1) Dogs Feel Guilty for Misbehaving

Have you ever seen a dog giving a sad look, or refusing to look at, a mess that he’s made? Many owners will interpret this as the dog knowing that he’s done wrong and feeling guilty for it. But the truth is that dogs can’t feel guilt. Dogs can’t actually relate past action, like chewing up a shoe an hour ago, to present reaction, like you getting mad. The only thing a dog is reacting to is your current behavior. (This, incidentally, is why it’s so vital that you act immediately when teaching a dog not to use the bathroom inside.) When dogs give you that puppy dog look right away after doing something bad, what they are actually doing is reacting to your body language. They’ve learned in the past that when you use that particular tone of voice, you want them to react in a specific way – namely, in that sad face way. This is simply a trick, which your dog has learned will result in him not getting sent outside or to his kennel.

(2) Dogs Love Cleaning Up Leftovers

I can’t tell you how many dogs I know that get called “hoover dogs” by their owners, almost with a note of pride. Their owners love the fact that the dog will keep the floor clean by sweeping up crumbs at dinner time. This isn’t healthy for your dog, however. We’ve talked in depth about why human food is bad for dogs before, so I just want to say here that if you must give your dog treats, be sure it’s a food that is healthy for them. And be sure you are considering their calorie count for the day! Dogs don’t need nearly as many calories as humans. Choose treats that use natural ingredients if you must spoil your dog with extra goodies. Be sure to talk to your vet about adding anything new to your dog’s diet if they have health issues or are overweight.

(3) Dog Mouths Are Cleaner Than Human Mouths

This is one myth I hear repeated a lot. Heck, in my younger years, I may have even said this one myself a time or two. It’s a comforting thing to tell yourself when you love getting puppy kisses, and it’s also fun to lob at parents freaking out when Junior is having a blast with a new puppy. But the truth is that this simply isn’t true. The difference is that dogs have dog-specific bacteria in their mouths, which are typically harmless to humans. Just because their bacteria don’t usually harm us, though, doesn’t mean their mouths are cleaner. They are regularly eating poop, dead things, and other undesirables after all! It isn’t uncommon for humans to get worms from dogs that lick them, so keep that in mind! If a dog has been eating something with worms, those worms can be transferred to the human recipient of those sloppy kisses. The best way to protect yourself and your dog from this fate is to brush their teeth at least once a week. Use a canine toothpaste and toothbrush to get rid of particles and plaque that build up in their teeth, and you’ll have much less chance of getting worms.

(4) Old Dogs Can’t Learn New Tricks

Despite the idioms to the contrary, many people believe that older dogs are incapable of learning new tricks. Here’s why we think that: Many older dogs have hearing or vision loss that makes it hard for them to realize what you want in the first place. Too many dogs have been written off as “dumb” simply because they are at a disadvantage. The other issue is that, well, older dogs are set in their ways. That doesn’t mean they can’t learn; it just means that you’re trying to teach a 70-year-old to do something different than the way they’ve been doing it their whole life. It’s not that they can’t, it’s more that they just don’t want to. In other words, they aren’t as eager to please as puppies because, as an older dog, they know that they’ll be fed and cared for regardless. Cheeky buggers! But with patience, you can definitely teach an old dog any new trick they are physically capable of doing. Get them interested by introducing a new treat or new reward that will motivate them to try.

(5) Mutts Are Healthier Than Purebred Dogs

This is a myth that I myself am guilty of prolonging even on this blog. Saying that a mutt is healthier than a purebred dog does have a hint of truth to it, but that phrasing is more like shorthand for explaining a much more detailed point. Here’s the bottom line: You have just as much of a chance of having medical issues with a mutt as you do a purebred dog. So there’s that myth busted. Now, let’s get into the specifics. Many mutts have less serious health concerns because the tendency to develop serious health concerns is “watered down” through their mixed breeding. Additionally, we don’t really know what mutts are prone to developing because they just aren’t tracked the same way registered breeds are. For all we know, mutts could be far more prone to developing bad teeth – it’s just that there is no database that we can refer to because typically, only registered breeds are tracked in this way.

(6) Playing Tug o’ War or Other Aggressive Games Causes Aggression

This is the silliest myth that I hear way too often. Because dogs growl and whip their heads around and get a bit rowdy during games like tug o’ war, too many people believe that it’s teaching dogs to be aggressive. The thing is that dogs actually do know the difference between play and aggression, and they show you this through their body language. Structured games like this, that utilize a dog’s natural play instincts, are a great way to bond with your dog in a way that they understand. Think of this way: Just because you teach a kid to play hide and seek, doesn’t mean you’re teaching him to run and hide every time he hears someone counting for the rest of his life. Play time and aggression are two different things to a dog. So grab that tug o’ war rope and have some fun!

(7) Dogs Hate the Mailman

Dogs have no idea who or what a mailman is. They don’t know the difference between the mailman and the teenager who comes to mow the lawn once a week. The only reason that your dog seems to instinctively hate mailmen is because this person comes to your house every day, and your dog doesn’t recognize them as someone who belongs there. Your dog simply knows that a stranger is approaching the house every day, and they want to protect you from that stranger. Introducing your dog to the mailman as a friend is a pretty easy way to get them to stop barking every day when the mail comes.

(8) A Big Backyard Is Enough for Dogs to Exercise

This is not only a common myth, but a very dangerous one for a dog’s health. Having a large backyard is great because it gives a dog a place to stretch their legs, and it’s convenient for you. But just letting a dog outside into the yard is not enough to meet their exercise needs. Dogs are natural pack animals. They want to be with you. If you let them outside and don’t go with them, they are more likely to stick close to the house and not indulge in real exercise and play. You need to either go outside with the dog and encourage them to burn off their energy, or plan on taking them on a walk, to the dog park, or wherever you exercise. This is the only foolproof way to ensure that your dog gets the movement they need. Playing with them in the backyard can work if you want, just be sure to get out there with them. Toss a ball while you sit in a lawn chair or even spend some time having your dog run through basic training commands, like sit or come.

(9) Female Dogs Shouldn’t Be Spayed till They Have a Litter

This is a big myth in the world of purebred dogs, and it’s another one that makes me roll my eyes. This myth is one of the biggest contributors to overpopulation. There is no evidence that female dogs are healthier after having a litter, and you can’t ever predict the size of a litter. What will you do if your dog pops out 13 or more pups on their first go? The fact is that spaying reduces the frequency of health problems in the future, and also helps reduce overpopulation in shelters and the frequency of strays. If you intend to spay your dog, don’t wait till they have that first litter just because you think it will be better for her.

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The Final Word

These nine myths are things that I’ve heard over and over in my years as a dog lover, and I think it’s time for them to be put to bed. Most owners won’t be as silly as the woman in the pet store – buying toys based on her belief that a dog couldn’t see colors so why bother buying colorful toys. But that doesn’t mean that certain silly or even dangerous behaviors aren’t common in humans when they are operating on false beliefs.

Now that you know the truth about dog myths, you’ll be able to help your dog have a healthier and happier life without any silliness. And remember that you can always talk to your vet, a professional dog trainer, or a dog shelter worker, if you have questions about dog myths. They’ll be able to help you bust the myths that are false and understand what is true about your dog’s needs.




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