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Dogs apparently

August 25, 2011

ApparentlyI expect every field of interest that is based on a lack of understanding will be littered with the “apparentlys”, myths and legends. These are the things we have heard that are not based on evidence but we half believe. By prefixing our statements with “apparently” we indicate our skeptical view, or lack of true source to attribute the information to. It excuses us from doing some research, checking it out or verifying the truth behind it.

Dogs and training are littered with Apparentlys and it takes a mammoth amount of work to undo an apparently. We shall begin here.


Apparently if you feed a dog raw meat, chicken or lamb etc, it will run amok killing chickens and lambs.

I can understand why this may have evolved, it is a bent sort of common sense. There is no evidence that a dog fed on kibble or cooked food will not kill hens or sheep. That behaviour is inherent to some degree in every dog. We have bred dogs to hunt and secure provision for our table for thousands of years and that doesn’t go away in a generation of prepared feeding. Prey and predators should always be safely managed with good fencing. Prey will act like prey, run around in panic and alarm, and predators will always respond to this behaviour with desires to kill, maybe not with the skills to be very successful, but certainly strong ambition. What they were fed for breakfast has no direct impact on this behaviour. In fact my wicked common sense hints that a dog fed on pulp and kibble has all the MORE reason to want to kill and taste real flesh.


Apparently if you always walk a dog on a head collar it will eventually learn not to pull.

This sound like a people-are-dumb marketing strategy. “If we tell them this often enough they will come to believe it”. The source of many a good apparently, just as when we were children: “A Mars a day helps us Work, Rest and Play” – more truthfully: rots your teeth and builds a dependence on sugar. But profit must be made at any cost.

A head collar, of any variety, makes pulling uncomfortable for the dog, it makes walking the dog more comfortable for you. But, there is always that But, and that is usually at a cost to the dog. By ignoring the underlying reasons for pulling the head collar, or any other piece of equipment,  can never teach a dog not to pull as the reasons for pulling are still present. Often suppression of those behavioural roots triggers more resistance. The dog may be pulling out of frustration, not getting to where they want to go, or because your walking speed is uncomfortable for them, they just need to go a fraction faster to be able to trot comfortably. Pulling is taught to dogs by people, that follow-the-pup-everywhere early mistake, the sense of disconnection by a permanent view of the back of the dog’s head, an image of “walking the dog” where the dog is striding out smartly in front of you.

Keeping the dog on a head collar will become a lifelong arrangement, and a yearly purchase of the new model of head collar. The non-pulling will only occur when the head collar is present. Money better invested with a good dose of your time and intellect on wondering why the dog is so at odds with you when walking together?


Apparently dogs need a good walk every day

Not really. Perhaps this evolved from the days that dogs were kept confined in kennels – an excellent convention that made dogs easier for people to manage them but were never designed with what dogs would want or need. Certainly dogs need physical exercise to keep fit, certainly many dogs enjoy the stimulus of new environments, but what dogs most enjoy is quality time spent with you. On  Winter’s evening this could be an exciting 30 minutes of nosework training around the house, on a Summer’s morning playing with toys, chase and catch, in your garden. A happy chunk of free shaping to stretch the mind. A rich variety of activities, maybe a weekend hike or swim, an hour’s party time with a friend, an afternoon training, a picnic in the garden, some physical, some mental, and building social skills and connection.

If your “going for a walk” is stressful: because your dog is a traffic chaser, because your dog gets stressed passing other dogs on the pavement, because your local park is overrun by inappropriately “friendly” dogs please do not keep practising this stress. This dog does not need to walk every day, you can provide what they need in many other, more stimulating and mutually enjoyable ways.


Apparently dogs should never be fed bones

Sorry, it may have been right some years ago, but now we distinguish between cooked and raw bones. A dog’s stomach does a great job of breaking down raw bone, securing all that wonderful marrow and good material from the bone for their bodies. Cooked bone is a completed different beast and cannot be stomach rendered successfully. So it begins to move on down through the gut and can cause fatal damage in the process. Never cooked bones: absolutely right. Raw bones: absolutely yes, and you will never need to invest in a toothbrush for your dog. Again use common sense, their stomach is not going to cope with bone by the shovel full, a bovine femur is too much for any dog. Quantity is your guide line, no larger that the dog’s head, small amounts on a regular daily basis.


Apparently dogs should always sniff each other’s butts when greeting

One of those nearly right Apparentlys but with the rest of the sentence lopped off in re-telling. Add “… when offered.” If the butt ain’t offered for sniffing then the other dog should politely move away. A young puppy is often subjected to an intimate inspection by an unknown (usually male) dog. The canine equivalent of a paedophile. Young puppies often do not understand this protocol, and have yet to learn to take an interest in butt-conversations. That invasive behaviour can often be frightening and it is not a “socialisation” process, in fact it may be the historical conditions that have led to your dog having extreme anxiety when approached by a strange dog.

Our urbanised dogs, on leads and forced into unnatural proximity with other dogs are not in a position to step through the proper canine social introductions. Regard strange dogs as you would strange people, perhaps you will walk on by in a busy high street or railway station, or perhaps you will pass with a nod and “good morning” in the village, but you are not going to stop for butt-greeting until you know each other a little better. At the other end of the make-new-friends process, let the dogs get to know each other on mutual territory, where they can share an activity, a good walk through the woods, and step by step get better acquainted. Once they are familiar and feel secure they will begin to offer butt-conversations. These relationships and dinner before sex arrangements need to be reserved for those dog you wish your dog to have a long-term relationship with – your friend’s dog, your mother-in-law’s Schnauzer etc, not the passing street strangers or park gangs.

Certainly your dog should not be allowed to be a butt-sniffing bully, that is not “being friendly”. If the butt is offered then it may be sniffed, but if it is parked on the tarmac, then it should remain private.


These are just a few of my Apparentlys that I want to dissolve, please let me know of Apparently’s that make you grumpy, confused or are just plain ridiculous. Our own inherited ignorance is usually entertaining! Let’s begin dropping Apparentlys like flies as our knowledge increases and those old wives die from talking too much.


Dogs, apparently, are very good at behaving like dogs.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. Kay Jennings permalink
    August 26, 2011 4:12 pm

    How about….apparently if you play tug with your dog you will make it aggressive, and if you let it win it will become dominant! Still doing the rounds…….

  2. Allison permalink
    August 26, 2011 4:32 pm

    how about . . . apparently if you feed your dog people food they will learn to beg at the table.

  3. Claire permalink
    August 26, 2011 4:38 pm

    Hi Kay,
    congrats on the blog – I look forward to reading & learning more! Even though you are continents away, you are one of my favourite teachers.
    Is it possible to add a RSS feed to the blog so that when new entries are posted, we will be notified by email? or is there already such a notification system that I’m missing ?
    Best regards – Claire

    • August 27, 2011 6:55 am

      Hi Claire – thanks for the feedback, this is new vistas for me, but there is an option to be notified of new posts right at the bottom of the page …. It takes some sniffing out!

  4. Kristina permalink
    August 26, 2011 7:48 pm

    Hi, Kay!
    I loved this article and I’m very glad that you have a blog now. The newsletter came to seldom :p It’s always good to read about “well known facts” from a new point of view.

    Best wishes for all the things you do!

  5. August 27, 2011 7:29 am

    Apparently if you allow the dog to walk through doors and narrow areas first it will take over the house, dominate you and in no time (probably) take over the world … 😉

    And this one (to me) is priceless: Apparently, if *you* sit in your dogs basket/bed (no kidding), you can establish dominance over your dog


  6. August 28, 2011 12:43 pm

    Great blog Kay. I can’t wait to read more.

  7. August 30, 2011 7:12 am

    Hi Kay,
    I’m really looking forward to reading more blog entries!
    It seems that the only way to register for notification of new posts is to first post a comment… You need to add an RSS-feed option, please! (ask someone how, it’s very simple if you know what to do).

    Anyway, really enjoy reading your stuff!

  8. Barb Buchmayer permalink
    September 3, 2011 2:22 am

    Apparently if you use positive methods your dogs will never have self control or be respectful and will always run amok.

    Obviously these things can happen under any training method. The kicker with clicking is learning how to get the dog to WANT to do what you require. The difference between a willing worker and a depressed, forced worker is quite startling! Once you see the difference in your dogs you never want to go back to using force, period.

    The people reading this blog already have seen the light but there are countless others who cannot or do not want to see.


    • September 27, 2011 1:41 pm

      you are absolutely right! i think that partially it is the way people themselves have been raised that makes it so hard for them to wrap their minds around the fact that positive does not mean “permissive” or ‘sloppy”.

  9. Chris Bond permalink
    September 5, 2011 9:14 pm

    Apparently… if you use only positive training methods, the dog will not be resilient enough to withstand the normal pressures of life. A little punishment in training makes them tough.

    Reminiscent of child-rearing beliefs of the old West. Teach your kid to be tough by bullying him.

  10. Suzana Muzitano permalink
    September 24, 2011 4:21 am

    Excellent opportunity to learn more, thank you!

    • September 30, 2011 10:20 am

      Thanks Kay, great! I look forward to more from you.

      Apparently…. if you let your dog dominate you it will take over your household!!

  11. October 11, 2011 1:17 pm

    I taught a little dog to sit and lie down, using treats. However, I taught her many other things without treats or clickers or any other “method”. As soon as she understands what I want her to do – she does it! Why? Her owner hates walking, works all day, so for more than a year of her life she was confined to a small house and small backyard. Then I started walking her on the mountain once a week. She enjoys it so much, it’s “apparently” like an hallucinogenic trip for her. And I’m her “supplier”. So she will do anything for me, just as soon as her little brain figures out what it is I want. The other day she just suddenly sat down on the pavement and looked up at me for approval. I thought ???? Then I realized we are at the place where some dogs behind a fence a block away become audible. And the last time we were there I told Leah to sit and I scratched her chest to calm her reactivity to the other dogs. She remembered and did what she figured I wanted – without my even having to ask.

  12. dawn permalink
    June 4, 2012 3:11 am

    Often the public’s first exposure to clicker training comes when an enlightened owner is using it to overcome leash reactivity, so…Apparently, clicker training makes dogs aggressive and causes all sorts of problems.

    • June 4, 2012 10:08 am

      Sometimes, sadly, the public can make the correct interpretation. A clicker simply marks a behaviour, if the timing is wrong, then it will successfully increase the undesired behaviour – let’s hope this is only a rare occurrence. I have seen a training strategy where the best treat was used for the “aggression” training, and the smell of the chicken became part of the cue to aggress! It is a very thin line between good intention and wrong interception.

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