You don’t have to be an expert on dog behavior or have a multiple-dog household to use these tips. Frankly you don’t even have to have a dog!

If you’re thinking of getting a puppy, the sooner you read this the better. I grew up with dogs as a kid; mine was a multi-Beagle household, and I’ve shared my life and love with dogs ever since. Some of the following tips I learned from reading about dogs; others I learned from experience and still others I learned from trial and error. So here are a few of the most-asked and, in some cases, most ridiculous myths about dogs.

  1. You can housetrain a puppy by rubbing his nose in “accidents”. 

    I thought this lunacy disappeared when Ronald Reagan was in kindergarten, but just last week I heard it from a dog owner on an episode of The Dog Whisperer. Poor Cesar Millan looked decidedly disgusted. In classical conditioning (remember Pavlov’s dogs?), dogs learn the same way other intelligent animals do: they repeat behavior that’s rewarded and stop behavior that’s ignored. The only thing accomplished by rubbing a pup’s nose in a pile of poop is (1) a dirty-nosed dog, and (2) a confused and terrified dog. Take your little one outside often or put her on newspaper or commercial “pee pads” and offer high praise when she does her thing. Speak a stern “no!” if you catch her in the act and put her in the appropriate spot. Never hit your dog since this leads only to dangerous aggression.

  2. Dogs don’t see in color.

    Sure they do! Not in the same colors as we see them though. Dogs see the color spectrum mostly in shades of blue and yellow. They can’t tell peacock blue from ocean blue; they see shades only in terms of lighter or darker like their wolf ancestors.

  3. Dogs don’t dream.

    Yes. Even as newborns, you’ll see their paws and noses twitch and hear their soft little yips when they’ve catching a nap. An interesting difference between us and canines is that humans have vivid “content” dreams about (sometimes weird) things that have happened or could happen. Dogs’ dreams are based in instinctual behavior like barking, playing, fighting, chewing, running away from danger, and being joyful.

  4. It’s unhealthy to spay or neuter dogs.

    Just plain nuts (hehe…)! Spaying or neutering won’t change the lively nature of your pet. Soon after surgery, he or she will be the same as ever. And since mammary, uterine and testicular tumors kill millions of dogs per year, your dog will be healthier and live longer. Wild dogs who are constantly fighting for prey and mates seldom live longer than three years.

  5. Dogs can’t watch TV. 

    I don’t know about yours, but some of mine certainly do! The favorite at our house (on the wide-screen) are, of course, anything with dogs like Animal Cops, Too Cute, Pitbulls and Parolees and the wildly popular Dog Whisperer. Dogs also like action movies with loud noises (see them cock their heads?), shows with wild animals like lions and hyenas, and shows with a lot of loud singing. Not only do they recognize other dogs, but they show an affinity to things that naturally occur in their world, thus sleeping through Tanked  but focusing intently on Deadliest Catch since crabbing is a loud way to make a living.

  6. Dogs have abandoned their old pack behavior.

    Ha! Try having more than one dog and see just how quickly their pack behavior surfaces. And remember their humans are also part of the pack. Like wolves, every dog pack has an Alpha (top) male and female; the Alpha male is the dogs’ boss, and the Alpha female works with him as the dogs’ mother. Both can be very jealous of your time when subordinate pack members dare to intrude. Alpha females raise the puppies – either their own or new pups you bring home. Alpha males are more aggressive with strangers, thus protecting the pack. (This includes the UPS man, strange dogs, and your new boy/girlfriend, so be careful!) It’s most important that, since dogs want and need a class system in their lives, you be the utmost pack leader. Without firm leadership, dogs get anxious and/or aggressive from not knowing their position and duties in the pack.