My Top 6 Favorite Dog Myths, Debunked

puppy training, dog myths debunked

Urban legends and myths surround all aspects of life.

I suppose that most start out with good intentions, because something specifically good or bad happened to someone, and so they proliferated the story to make it more important for others.

And, some are just simply outrageous ideas that someone has tried to convince others about, like kids in debate trying to prove a point. I remember a lot of “gang initiation” urban legends being spread when I was a teenager.

I was led to believe that if I flashed my high beams to a car without headlights on at night, the person would follow and murder me as some kind of gang initiation.

I snicker, as an adult; I was a little worried as a naïve kid.

Thankfully, most of the “Doggy Myths” probably started out with some kind of good intention.

Six Dog Myths That Deserved To Be Debunked:

1. Your Dog Shouldn’t Sleep on Your Bed

We have all been lead to believe that if your dog sleeps on your bed, or in your bed with you, that he will soon be dreaming up his evil plan to take over the world.

Most dogs don’t want to be “Doctor Doom”.

I wonder if someone’s spouse, who was tired of sharing the bed with the dog came up with this advice, ha ha!

And, can I be the first to say… “I LIKE MY DOG IN BED WITH ME”.

Ironically there have been health studies that say sleeping with your dog and snuggling is good for your health; both of you!


If your dog has aggression issues or is possessive of his space (for instance he doesn’t want you near “his chair” and threatens to bite you during the day), he has no business being in your bed!

If he is already crate trained and he listens to your obedience commands most of the time and he is affectionate, there is really no reason or myth that says he has to stay out of your bed.

I have 2 dogs; one has access to my bed, and the other will just never be appropriate enough to sleep with me and that is fine!

2. All Dogs Can Swim

This one brings tears to my eyes today!

Yesterday, I watched a totally devastated dog owner mourning the loss of his 2 year old dog who had drowned. They found him at the bottom of their pool. It was incredibly sad.

puppy training, dog myths debunkedAs a judge for Ultimate Air Dogs, a dog dock diving organization, I spend a lot of time teaching dogs to swim.

Many dogs first reaction is panic, like humans, and dog paddle with the front legs but not kick with the back, then exhaust themselves and begin to sink.

I have been bloodied and welted as I held dogs in the water and helped them to stop shark rolling and panicking and gain some confidence.

I have learned how to teach a dog, first to stop panicking and relax some, and then to use their back legs to kick instead of dog paddling vertically and reaching exhaustion.

Humans and canines often resort to panic when faced with water.

If you have a pool, I suggest you teach your dog to swim and mark an area that he can always find in case he falls out, and perhaps make him a ramp so that he can get out on his own!

3. The BEST Time to Train Your Dog is on a Walk

This seems like good information, right?

And, I would say that the majority of people expect to teach their dog while they are out strolling for their walk in the morning or in the evening.

The problem?

You then have to do battle with all of the distractions that this environment provides!

  • Squirrels
  • Kids
  • Cars
  • Bugs
  • Skateboarders
  • Dogs
  • Cats

You are going to probably have to deal with all or most of them!  Which means it will be difficult for your dog to “learn”.

To learn more on how to deal with the distractions, click here.

Learning takes place at home, where the distractions are few and can be controlled.

Once your dog has learned a skill, then you can begin to add distractions and begin to work your way outside, and finally, you can work on leash training on a walk!

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4. Your Dog's Mouth is Cleaner than Yours

I don’t know about you… but I don’t eat poop.

I also can’t lick my own butt, and I am FAIRLY sure, that if I could, I wouldn’t! HA!

Also, I don’t eat or scavenge things out of the trash or off of the floor. I mean, unless I was really hungry (it was a Cheeto), or it fell within the 5 second rule.

Ironically, as I lay asleep this morning in bed, my mouth agape, my dog pushed her tennis ball into my mouth.

I am pretty sure she was disturbed that I was trying to sleep in, and she wanted to wake me so that I would feed her.

Let me just tell you that there is not enough toothpaste, mouthwash, soap or alcohol to get rid of the "heebeegeebees" and panic that ran through my body.  Because I know where that ball has been!  Ha ha

Honestly, I am not sure how this myth came about.

I suppose at some point someone’s dog licked their wound and it seemed to heal better…

But, the truth is that your dog’s mouth is full of bacteria.

The older he is and the less he chews to take plaque off, the more plaque and bacteria he has growing in there.

I mean, I brush my teeth at least twice daily.

And, I do recommend brushing your dog’s teeth too! It is essential for his health!

5. Human Food Will Make Your Dog Beg

Let’s just clear this myth up, quickly.

Your dog doesn’t know the difference between “human food” and “dog food” or “dog treats”. puppy training, dog myths debunked

The problem is when you feed your dog off of your plate or with what you are eating!

For years, I trained Service Dogs and rewarded them for good behavior when they settled in under a table, but never fed them from my plate.

I used string cheese as their “training” rewards to reward good behavior.

If a dog can smell the odor of cooked food (which makes him hungry, by the way), and then you give it to him or share it with him, either while you are cooking, while you eat it, or after you have finished, then YES, you have essentially taught him to beg.

So often I go into the home of potential clients with my string cheese and they are adamant that they can’t use “human food” because they don’t want their dog to beg.  The truth is that your dog won’t understand this is “human food” unless you are eating it while you are feeding it to him.

With all the recent recalls on dog foods and dog treats, I often just trust human foods to be safer as a reward than dog treats made in other countries with less stringent regulations!

6. Physical Exercise is the Best Way to Tire Your Dog

This is a big theme of mine. I looooove physical exercise. I think physical exercise is very important.

Remember, your dog is an athlete and you need to keep his body healthy.

And, going for a walk around the block probably isn’t going to do it either.

But, if I have a limited amount of time to get a tired dog, the best way is through mental stimulation.

The mental stimulation of learning is exhausting.

Now, if you add some physical exercise to that learning, you have the recipe to get in and get that dog sleepy!

I ask my dogs to complete obedience training and tasks, and then I throw their ball for them to retrieve.

They get the mental simulation of playing the “puppy training” game with me and the physical exercise of chasing their favorite toy!

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  1. Mat says:

    Really great article Minette,

    My personal favorite from your list is that physical exercise is the best way to tire your dog. Dog’s that I’ve worked with can do physically draining exercise for an hour. Have a 30 min rest/sleep and be ready to do it all over again.

    Spend 30 mins exercise and 30 mins teaching them something new to stimulate their brain and they’re often done for the day!

    Another classic myth that isn’t necessarily true is an old dog can’t learn new tricks!

    Thanks again for the great article!


  2. Margot Hill says:

    Great article, Chet! I especially like the one about the pool. We lost a very able swimmer in our pool because we forgot to remove the sun cover one morning when we were hurrying out. We live in Florida and there are lots of people with pools and lots of people with sun covers which do not attached to the sides of the pool, instead lay loosely on top. This is disastrous for a dog maybe used to sitting on the trampoline types of oool covers as my dog was, or see a gecko run across the cover and felt the need to chase it. We threw the sun cover out, forever regretting the loss of our 14-year-old Jack Russell terrier. We were only gone 20 minutes, that’s how fast tragedy can strike.

    Every dog we’ve had since gets a lesson in the pool on not only how to swim without panic and with enjoyment, but how to swim to the steps to get out. Now the command “swim to the steps” applies to every pool they go into, and my dogs love to swim, but they must feel comfortable in the water to swim without panic and that is our job to teach them. We teach them as puppies on a float in the water with us there in the water with them and the other dogs swimming around them enjoying themselves so that they can see it it is a fun endeavor. We never force them into the water or throw them in –we bring them gradually into what looks like an enjoyable exercise and cool place to be in hot Florida. My three-year-old Jack rescue still will only go onto the steps of the pool, but will jump off the edge of a boat if I am walking away from it to follow me into dog beach, and is a terrific swimmer.
    When we are on a boat in the gulf, which is at least once a week, no matter how good of a swimmer they are they always have lifejackets on in case they fall in, or because there are very strong currents in the narrow passage between where we anchor and the beach, and we always walk with them as they swim along beside us.
    I’ve heard many stories of dogs drowning and I know there are certain breeds such as Boston Terriers who aren’t swimmers. It is good for you to destroy the myth that every dog can swim. Like your children, they need to be taught, and if their body type does not allow it (think bulldog) then we need to take precautions and protect the area around pools.


  3. B Bowles says:

    Regarding swimming, keep an eye on even dogs which can swim as they get older. My springer was 14, always been a swimmer from a pup; one evening he went into the garden and stayed out much longer than had become his habit. I am so thankful I went to find out why; he’d gone in the garden pond (about 2 foot deep) whether by accident or design, but no longer had the strength to pull himself out – he was hanging onto the side looking exhausted, could have been there 10 mins. Had I left it longer to check on him, he could well have drowned.

    Your physical exercise thing is true; if you want to tire a dog, take him somewhere he hasn’t been for a while so he has a lot of new smells to process.


  4. Rudy F Williams says:

    I introduced Rowdy, my golden doodle, to swimming by walking with him on a leash down a boat ramp at a small local lake. He transitioned from walking on four legs to swimming with four legs.
    After three times I took the leash off, but still walked with him. He seemed comfortable and relaxed.
    A woman who observed us gave me a name brand dog water toy that her dog wouldn’t play with.
    I threw it in the lake and Rowdy just naturally swam to it and retrieved it.


  5. What if you don’t have a playful dog. We have a 7 yr old Shih Tsu that was a rescue. In the 2 yrs we have had him, he has shown little to no interest in playing. I do get him for a fairly good walk each day (weather permitting) but that is about it.


    Minette Reply:

    Go hiking, go swimming or search my articles for teaching your dog to play


  6. Shirley Jaeger says:

    I always enjoy articles that you send to me. Sometimes they are very helpful. Thank you so much.


  7. Jackie Newton says:

    Chet, I have two young male Labradors, one is very high energy, the other unfortunately has elbow displacement, after expensive surgery he walks, runs etc but starts to limp if he gets too much exercise, my problem is trying to walk them together is really difficult. One wants to run everywhere the other wants to but can’t. What do you suggest? They also don’t want to be apart, so separate walks are difficult. Thanks Jackie


  8. Madlin says:

    Great comments, at least the parts I could read…trying to read over some of the pictures was impossible.


  9. Madlin says:

    OK, now that I sent a comment…it is visible on plain, white screen!


  10. Lori Cate says:

    On the human food I have to put some in with his so he will eat. Because of his medicine he takes makes him not want to eat.


  11. Jo Fanning says:

    I really enjoyed the article on teaching your dog to swim. I had a Border Collie way back in the 60’s. My husband at the time thought I was crazy when I told him I needed to teach this Border Collie pup how to swim. Our favorite place to go to cool off was at a reservoir close to home. Puppy ran into the water, started dog padding and started sinking. I had to rescue him. Fortunately, he was not very far out from shore since I cannot swim either. It didn’t take long for him to learn to swim.


  12. Liz says:

    Love all this information thank you so much for sharing your knowledge.


  13. Karen says:

    A dog’s mouth is dirty…absolutely! You got this perfect! I guess when someone is letting their dog lick them on the mouth, they counter with, “A dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human!” WOOF, NOT!


  14. Norma says:

    Great article! I agree with everything you said. My Bichon sleeps with me and eats whatever I eat but I mix it with some zero grain dog food. He loves to give kisses but I agree no lips…lol


  15. Kathleen Gee says:

    We got our little Cairn Terrier at 13 weeks old, and he has begged from that moment on. We have NEVER fed him human food and NEVER fed him from the table. I was always under the impression that if you feed the dog FIRST he won’t beg at the table. Tucker didn’t get the memo!!!


  16. Armand says:

    All classics or oldies but goodies but new pet owners or perspective dog owners need to see these. Good post!


  17. Deb Hammerl says:

    How do I teach my dog to chase toys? She’s 3-4 yrs old that I got as a rescue. Small dog that needs more exercise than I can give her on a leash. She is playful but dosen’t seem to know how to run after anything, rabbits excluded!


    Minette Reply:

    use the search bar to look for my article on teaching your dog to play


  18. Nadine says:

    Great article, loved the bit about begging…..which is always about you, the human and not the actual food. My 3 beg from me constantly (I love sharing appropriate food with my pack). But when on holiday 1 of the kids move back in and the dogs don’t beg from them ever as they have never shared, instead putting leftovers in their bowls. Al. 3 sleep with me one in the bed! 2 swim and 1 paddles, he can swim, but prefers not to! All good on lead 1 not so good off lead so am more careful about where he is. And they all get lots of kisses. All dogs are different and while training is important, recognising and accepting differences will lead to a good relationship


  19. Cindy says:

    Learned something new I thought all dogs could swim wow I’ve owned dogs for 63 years and swam with them all even cliff diving and they’d jump right in thanks for the lesson


  20. Cyndi says:

    Our mini dachshund began begging when we got lax about where we gave her snacks from the food we were eating. We began ONLY giving her snacks in her food bowl. She crowded the bowl in anticipation making it difficult to actually get the snacks into her bowl. So we began making her sit and stay a few feet from the bowl and giving the “free!” command once we were done putting the snacks in her bowl. She very quickly learned to sit and wait. She still comes into the kitchen after we have eaten but once we give her a scrap or two from dinner she stays away.

    A caution about food from your plate. Be careful about amounts, bone fragments, salt, onions,and other dangerous foods for pets. If you are not aware of those foods a quick online search will yield lists.


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