Ten Common Dog Myths
Dog Myths are like Urban Legends; they are recycled so often that we begin to give merit to what we almost inherently know to be untrue. Often when the myth was conveyed by a loved one like a parent to us when we were children, the myth carries more weight and is harder to contradict even with sound logic. Some of these myths are actually harmful or detrimental to our dogs. Some of these are outlined here…….
1. Dogs don’t need to be housebroken – they naturally know where to go. If they make a mess in the house, they should be punished. You need to train your dog on where to go, using praise and positive encouragement for jobs well done, rather than punishment when you find a mess after the fact. Unless you catch your dog “in the act”, punishment does not serve any useful purpose, and will only make your dog nervous.
2. Pet dogs do not need to be obedience trained. This is not true. Your dog is learning things from you everyday and with every interaction whether you are being deliberate about this or not. Every dog should be trained using positive reinforcement rather than punishment. Ideally, you should take your dog to obedience classes so that he or she learns to behave even when there are distractions such as other people or other dogs.
3. Female dogs should have a litter before they are spayed. There are no good reasons to allow your dog to have a litter before spaying her; in fact, dogs that are spayed have a significantly lower risk of developing breast cancer or uterine disease. In addition, dogs spayed prior to having a heat often do not develop some of the overtly territorial and maternally aggressive behaviours seen in some female dogs. Dogs spayed prior to the first heat have a more than 95% reduction in the liklihood of ever developing mammary (breast) cancer.
4. Only male dogs will ‘hump” or lift their leg to urinate. This is not true. Female dogs who are dominant, even if they have been spayed, may lift their leg to urinate and may “hump” other dogs or objects.
5. Happy dogs wag their tails. Dogs do wag their tails when they are happy, but they also wag their tails when they are upset or challenged. There are several physical body motions and cues that help dogs communicate their intent. A wagging tail can mean either agitation or excitement. A dog that wags his tail slowly and moves his entire rear end or crouches down in the classic “play bow” position is usually demonstrating a friendly wag. Tails that are wagged when held higher, tails that “twitch” or a wagging tail held over the back may be associated with aggression.
6. Dogs like tasty food like table scraps. Dogs have very poor taste buds and eat primarily based on their sense of smell. Table scraps that are fatty can cause digestive problems such as pancreatitis, while chunks of bone can obstruct the intestines. Cooked bones are brittle and when they are chewed they can break up into sharp fragments that can pierce the intestines, which can cause a life-threatening emergency. Table scraps do not provide a balanced and nutritious diet for any dog.
7. Dogs eat grass when they are sick. Dogs descended from wild wolves and foxes that ate every part of their “kill”, including the stomach contents – which included berries, grass, and other vegetation. Many scientists believe grass was once part of dog’s normal diet and eating small amounts of grass is normal. In fact, dogs are classified as omnivores (and so are we) and not carnivores (like cats). As a result, there diet has a broad range of food classes as part of it including vegetables and grains. Dogs who enjoy eating grass are often very selective in what they will eat, choosing only young tender green grass.
8. Dogs are sick when their noses are warm. This is an old wives tale. The temperature of a dog’s nose does not indicate health or illness. It also does not indicate if they have a fever. The only accurate method to access a dog’s temperature is to take it with a thermometer. In fact, dog’s body temperature is higher than ours so it is hard for us to accurately perceive a fever by touch.
9. Dogs lick their wounds to heal them. Their saliva has healing properties. It is natural for a dog to lick its wounds. However, too much licking can actually inhibit healing. Since dogs routinely lick their anus and other objects that are laden with bacteria, licking can also deposit infectious bacteria on and into the wounds, thus potentially causing a serious infection.
10. Garlic prevents fleas. Garlic has NOT been proven helpful for flea control. Large amounts of garlic can even be harmful and is considered toxic to red blood cells if consumed in any form (raw, dried, powdered or cooked).
Posted by: Dr. Mark Steinebach