Common dog training myths and tips

Contrary to popular belief, you can teach an old dog new tricks!

Even among seasoned dog owners there are commonly held beliefs that just aren’t true, and by changing tack you can make training easier and more effective for both you and your dog.

Here are a few commonly held dog training myths and the truths behind them.

Dogs won’t listen without treats

Myth. Dogs can listen and learn without treats, and even once introduced you won’t necessarily need to use a treat forever to reinforce the behaviour you want. Repetition and practice in a variety of circumstances are key when learning new behaviours – practice sit at home alone, out at the park, on a walk, with family and friends, and in a variety of different environments when you have the opportunity. Six months is a good timeframe; once the behaviour is learned, you can gradually stop rewarding with treats. Afterwards, intermittent rewards work best to help your dog stay on track.

Dogs can’t understand language

Myth. While it’s true dogs don’t understand language in the same way we do, they do have an incredible capacity for language. Studies show the average dog can learn at least 165 words, and their vocabulary is comparable to that of a toddler. With puppies, it’s best to introduce training with simple words like “sit” or “no bark”, but over time there’s no reason why you need to dumb down grammar. Use proper language and teach your dog the same way you would a young child – speak in a way that comes naturally. You might be surprised what your dog understands!

I need to use domination to get my dog to listen

Myth. Training should be about communication rather than domination. Look for ways to get your dog to want to do something rather than by forcing them into submission. Yelling, ‘alpha rolls’ and specialised collars teach dogs what they shouldn’t do rather than what they should. Over time, positive training will yield a better result; studies have shown forceful methods can ultimately even make behaviours worse. Though it may take longer, abandoning old confrontational methods in favour of positive reinforcement and positive teaching might ultimately help you establish the behaviours you want.

Dogs can learn several new skills at once

Myth. Dogs learn best when they have time to master new tricks and skills, and it’s easiest to do this by tackling just one or two at a time. You don’t need to master a skill before moving on to a new one – for example housetraining doesn’t need to be perfect before you move on to basic training, nor need it be sequential. Training works best when you give your dog time to learn and understand new things but doesn’t necessarily need to progress from simple to complex.


What are your top dog training tips? Let us know in the comments below!

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Rachel - Silversurfers Assistant Editor

Hello there! I’m Rachel and I’m the Assistant Editor for Silversurfers. I work behind the scenes to bring interesting, informative and entertaining subject matter to the Silversurfers community. I hope you enjoy the features we have shared with you. Please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts with us, we love to hear from you!

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13th Jul 2019
Thanks for voting!
My Cockerpoo is intelligent and best pal. She remembers people we meet or who visit us/leave us only occasionally. The problem is she is over enthusiastic and barks/shrieks and jumps up at them in great excitement...goes mad if put in the kitchen when folk arrive (although she DOES go in on the word IN!)...and I just don't seem to be able to cure this. Out walking she is good and walks passed people who have no interest in her without problem...however if they look at her and make eye contact her first reaction is to greet them as friends! Too vigorously for some people. Others just love her and so she is encouraged. A Catch 22...any suggestions? I can use treats to distract her...but am thinking I need to carry a bag of Quality Street with me distract the humans away as well.! 🙂
8th Apr 2017
Thanks for voting!
We have two, five and a half month old pups. We found them when they were about two days old and have hand reared them. Training can be very difficult when you have two pups of the same age, particularly siblings and these are brother and sister... Lead training has proved most challenging, but we are getting there. We are just starting to take them out separately and once out they seem ok although she hates been left behind even if one of us is with her. They are both big dogs and it is good for us to remind ourselves from time to time just how young they still are and how far they have come already with the things they have learnt.

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