1. You must be the alpha
Is Rover secretly plotting a coup? One may think so with the rhetoric that claims, you must assume alpha or else your dog will.
This belief is at the top of the list for all dog training myths. Dogs are not interested in getting over on you or taking control. This would take a level of sophistication that dogs do not possess.
Simply put dogs care about what works and what doesn’t as well as safe and unsafe. The ability to motivate and to control resources for which your dog desires is all you need to know when it comes to getting desirable behavior from your dog.
2. Training with treats teaches dogs to work for treats and not you
You wouldn’t work for free, nor should you expect Rover to work for free. Dogs do not work for our charm or because you say so, dogs engage in desirable behavior because they get paid for it.
Treats that your dog desires are a great form of payment for behavior that you want repeated. Payment for desirable behavior can be anything your dog wants and if you want consistent behavior you must pay for it.
3. Dogs must be forced to comply
You can never guarantee a dog will do what you want, but you can tip the odds in your favor when you use positive reinforcement.
Positive reinforcement is a scientific term which means to strengthen behavior through the addition of something desirable. Example: Rover sits followed by something fantastic will positively reinforce the sit. In addition, this will also increase the likelihood that sit will be repeated.
Not only is positive reinforcement motivating for your dog it’s also reinforcing for you. Force is never needed nor recommended to get Rover to comply, only the power of positive reinforcement. Much more enjoyable for you and your dog.
4. My dog knows when he’s done wrong
Dogs don’t care about right or wrong nor do they care. What they care about is success and failure as well as safe and unsafe. If you understand these truths, you are much further ahead than most.
At times It may appear as if Rover knows he’s done wrong, after all look how guilty he looks when he’s done something you don’t approve of. In truth, your dog is reading your body language which tells him that you are upset and in turn makes him feel worried and unsafe.
Besides, if a dog cared about what he was doing was wrong why would he keep doing it?
5. Comforting a scared dog will reinforce fear
This would be true if fear could be reinforced. Fear is a deep-seated emotional state, the fear producing stimuli is what reinforces fear.
Rest assured, comforting Rover when scared will not reinforce this emotion. If your dog is worried or scared, of course you should comfort him. Your dog desires to feel safe and needs to know that he will be protected.
Dogs get scared and show fear for various reasons. Being fearful is not something they choose; they can’t help it. Alarm bells are sounding signaling danger.
Toning down alarm bells through counter conditioning training would be the focus in helping a dog overcome their fear.