Dog Training Newbie

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The Truth About 4 Common Dog Training Myths

fact and myth concept of man and dog training myths

As a new pet owner unaware of dog training myths, you may feel overwhelmed by the abundance of information available on the topic of dog training. With just one web search for “dog training”, you’re presented with countless articles, videos, and opinions – many of which contradict each other, leaving you feeling lost.

But fear not – we’re here to help you navigate the vast ocean of dog training advice and separate fact from fiction. By examining time-tested training methods and scientific research, we can distinguish myths about dog training from the truth and provide you with the knowledge and tools you need to raise a happy, obedient, and well-trained pup.

Table of Contents

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Myth #1

"Using food or treats in training is just bribery."

Bribery VS Reward

The notion that using food or treats to train a dog is equivalent to bribery is a common misconception. However, there’s a crucial difference between bribery and reward – and it all depends on the way food is being utilized in training.

Our friends at Latchkey Pets explain this concept by stating, “Bribing involves offering treats or other rewards to get a desired behavior from the dog, while rewarding involves voluntarily offering treats or other rewards for good behavior that has already occurred.”

Morgans dogs ready to earn a training treat

Bribing involves offering treats or other rewards to get a desired behavior from the dog, while Rewarding involves voluntarily offering treats or other rewards for good behavior that has already occurred.

In the same way that we’re motivated to work by receiving a paycheck, dogs are motivated to perform certain behaviors by being rewarded with food. By using food as a reward, we can increase the value of those desired behaviors for our dogs, making them more likely to repeat them in the future.
However, it is important to be mindful of the way we use food in training. If we rely too heavily on food as a bribe to lure a dog into a behavior, the dog may perform only if it receives food. To avoid this, it is crucial to gradually fade out food rewards in favor of secondary rewards like praise, play or cuddles.

My Dog ONLY Responds When There's Food

If your dog only responds to commands when food is present, you may need to call in a reliable positive reinforcement-based trainer. These trainers can guide you on best practices to train your dog and develop his skills without being overly dependent on food.

Myth #2

"Positive reinforcement training is too permissive."

No Correction Needed to Finish Training

While some people believe that dogs need to be corrected when they misbehave, many positive reinforcement-based trainers maintain that it’s more productive to ignore undesirable behavior and reinforce desirable behavior.

But what about when a dog’s behavior puts someone at risk, say when they knock down an elderly person? Should we really just ignore the dog’s behavior? It’s a legitimate concern, but it’s also a gross over-simplification of positive reinforcement training.

boy training dog using negative punishment when paws leave floor

Positive Reinforcement Dog Training is NOT a Permissive Approach! On the Contrary, it Involves Setting Boundaries by:

Preventing Undesired Behaviors

When the dog jumps up, no attention or treats are given.

Teaching an Alternative, Desired Behavior

Dog receives attention and treats when all four paws are on the floor.

Building the Desired Behavior by Making it More Rewarding than the Undesired Behavior

If we want the dog to keep "Four on the floor", give lavish praise and treats when his paws are all on the floor. Eventually, the dog will understand that one behavior benefits him more than jumping on guests.

Using Negative Punishment to Take Away What the Dog Wants

And yes, punishment is also used, but not in the form of physical force, rather by using negative punishment where something the dog values is taken away temporarily to deter inappropriate behavior. For example, we can take away our attention when the dog misbehaves or place the dog on a leash to keep it away from visiting grandmas.

So in the example of knocking over an elderly person, we would teach the dog that it only gets attention if it has all four paws on the floor. The minute it jumps up, attention gets removed. And when grandma comes over, we keep the dog on a leash until we are confident it won’t jump on her. This gives us the control needed to make sure the appropriate behavior is reinforced, while ensuring that the dog is unable to get close enough to grandma to knock her over.

These techniques are far from permissive – instead, they set up dogs to succeed by reinforcing appropriate behaviors and removing rewards for negative behaviors, allowing them to flourish and develop good habits.

Myth #3

"Some dogs are stubborn and need to be trained with a heavier hand."

Avoid Outdated, Harmful Training Techniques

This myth is untrue, and its belief can lead to harmful, dominance-based training techniques that may negatively affect your dog’s behavior and mental health. The truth is that most dogs are NOT inherently stubborn – rather, they are intelligent animals that can learn and adapt to their environment with proper training methods.

When exasperated owners claim that their dog is stubborn, it’s usually because their dogs won’t respond to a particular cue – perhaps even one that they have reliably responded to before. The truth is that, in most cases, this lack of response means that the dog has not yet been trained for that particular situation.

For instance, a dog might reliably perform the “sit” command at home, but not respond to the same cue in a dog training class – this may be because the dog hasn’t learned to perform the cue with the distractions present in class.

Play Sherlock...Figure out WHY There's Aversion

Much like humans, dogs need clear and consistent communication to fully understand their roles and responsibilities. So if a dog suddenly stops responding to a command it previously followed, it’s important to understand why the cue is now aversive.
Stubborn dog will not heel

I had a client whose dog suddenly stopped responding to the sit cue. I requested a vet evaluation, and the dog indeed had a back leg injury that made sitting painful.

Sometimes the aversive that has killed the behavior response is not as obvious. I had another client that reported that his dog had stopped going in his crate, a space he previously loved. It turns out that he was in his crate on garbage day, and the sound of the garbage truck was scary to him. He associated that scary noise with being his crate. So in his mind, avoiding the crate was also avoiding the frightening sound.

These two dogs were not being stubborn. They were worried.

Instead of resorting to harsh training techniques or disciplining dogs for not responding to cues, it’s essential to recognize that there may be other factors at play. Maybe, for example, the dog who is reluctant to “sit” on command is experiencing joint pain, or something more serious.
In summary, the idea that some dogs are stubborn and need to be trained with a heavier hand is a myth. The truth is that dogs are intelligent animals that can learn and adapt with proper training techniques. Positive reinforcement, clear communication, and a comprehensive understanding of the dog’s environment are key to successful training and strong bonds between humans and their four-legged companions.

Myth #4

"You should never feed your dog 'people' food."

Many 'People' Foods are Good for Our Dogs!

While it’s true that certain human foods can be dangerous for dogs, not all people food is harmful. In fact, many human foods can serve as healthy and nutritious treats for our furry friends.

For example, vegetables like carrots and green beans are low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals. Fruits like watermelon and bananas can also be great treats, as long as you remove any seeds or pits. And many types of lean protein, like chicken and fish, are excellent sources of nutrition for dogs.

'People' Food that Can be Dangerous to Dogs

Of course, it’s important to be mindful of the types of human food that can be dangerous for dogs as well. Chocolate, grapes, and onions are just a few foods that should never be fed to our furry friends. 

By doing a little research and consulting with your veterinarian, you can easily determine which human foods are safe and healthy for your dog. The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is another great resource for learning what foods dogs can safely eat.

How to Use 'People' Food as a High-Value Treat

When using people food as a reward, it’s important to choose high-value treats. This could be something like small pieces of chicken, cheese, or hot dogs. These types of treats are much more motivating than bland dog biscuits, and they can help to keep your dog engaged and focused during training sessions.

Feeding Dogs 'People' Food Won't Teach Begging

One of the main reasons why people fear feeding their dogs people food is the concern that it will lead to begging behavior. However, it’s important to understand that dogs learn through context and consequences.

Feeding a dog people food will NOT teach him to beg for food. Feeding a dog people food while you are eating might.

Dogs do what works and learn in context
A dog learns in context, and dogs do what works. So if a dog is whining and pawing while you eat at the dinner table and you give him just a little tidbit, that behavior was reinforced. And since it worked, that dog will try it again.

But if you grab the chicken out of your bait bag while asking for a sit, it will NOT create bad behavior at the table. Instead, your dog will learn that sitting quietly is the fastest way to get some food

Common Dog Training Myths Summary

Dog training is a complex process that requires patience, consistency, and a thorough understanding of your dog’s behavioral patterns. By debunking common dog training myths, pet owners can develop effective training techniques that are tailored to their furry companions’ unique needs.

Remember, positive reinforcement and consistency are key to successful dog training, and old-school methods like punishment and dominance training should be avoided. With the right approach, any dog can become a well-behaved, obedient, and happy companion. 


  • Devene Godau, CPDT-KA

    Devene obtained a BA in Journalism from Michigan State University and spent several years working in marketing. However, when she adopted her first greyhound (who came with some behavior challenges), she began researching ways to modify her problem behavior and found help with a local dog trainer. She became a volunteer assistant to learn more, and eventually started teaching classes and conducting private lessons. She currently trains puppies full-time to become scent detection dogs. Devene lives in Michigan with her husband and kids, as well as 4 dogs, 2 cats and a tortoise.

  • Morgan Messick

    Morgan Messick is a content creator for Dog Training Newbie, a website that is all about dog training tips, techniques, news, and more. Morgan has two dogs, three cats, and a lovely wife who support her passion for writing. Morgan loves reading murder mystery novels and listening to true crime podcasts in her spare time. She is also passionate about supporting small businesses by creating dynamic content that customers want to see.

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