Top 10 Dog Behaviour Myths Explained


1: Dogs are naturally pack animals with a clear social order.

This one falls apart immediately, because all the evidence suggests that free-ranging dogs (pariahs, feral and semi-feral populations) don’t form packs. Dogs actually form loose, amorphous, transitory associations with other dogs. And males do not participate in the rearing of young as occurs in a wolf pack.

2: If you let dogs exit doorways ahead of you, you’re letting them be dominant.

There is not only no evidence for this, there is no evidence that the behaviour of going through a doorway has any social significance whatsoever. In order to lend this idea any plausibility, it would first need to be ruled out that rapid doorway exit is not simply a function of their motivation to get to whatever is on the other side combined with their higher ambulation speed. Dogs walk faster than us.

3: In multi-dog households, “support the hierarchy” by giving presumed dominant animals patting, treats etc. first, before giving to presumed subordinate animals.

There is no evidence that this has any impact on inter-dog relations, or any type of aggression. In fact, if one dog were being aggressive toward another, the laws governing Pavlovian conditioning would dictate an opposite strategy: Teach aggressive dogs that another dog receiving scarce resources predicts that they are about to receive some. If so practiced, the aggressive dog develops a happy emotional response to other dogs getting stuff, a helpful piece of training indeed. No valuable conditioning effects are achieved by giving the presumed higher ranking dog goodies first.

4:Dogs have an innate desire to please.

This is a concept that has never been operationally defined, let alone tested. A vast preponderance of evidence, however, suggests that dogs, like all properly functioning animals, are motivated by food, water, sex, and like many animals, by play and access to bonded relationships, especially after an absence. They are also, like all animals, motivated by fear and pain and these are the inevitable tools of those who eschew the use of food, play etc., however much they cloak their coercion and collar tightening in desire to please rhetoric. So when a trainer says s/he is relying on this, make sure it’s not code for some sort of metal collar.

5: Rewards are bribes and thus compromise relationships.

Related to 4, the idea that behaviour should just, in the words of Dr. Susan Friedman “flow like a fountain” without need of consequences, is opposed by more than sixty years of unequivocal evidence that behaviour is, again to quote Friedman: “a tool to produce consequences”. Another problem is that bribes are given before behaviour and rewards after. And, a mountain of evidence from decades of research in pure and applied settings has demonstrated over and over that positive reinforcement – i.e. reward – makes relationships better, never worse.
6: If you pat your dog when he’s afraid, you’re rewarding the fear.
Fear is an emotional state, a reaction to the presence or anticipation of something highly aversive. It is not an attempt at manipulation. If terrorists enter a bank and order everybody down on the floor, the people will exhibit fearful behaviour. If I then give one of the bank customers on the floor a compliment, £20 or chocolates is this going to make them more afraid of terrorists next time? It’s stunningly narcissistic to imagine that a dog’s fearful behaviour is somehow directed at us (along with his door dashing).

7: Punish dogs for growling or else they’ll become aggressive.

Dogs growl because something that is upsetting them is too close. If you punish them for informing us of this, they are still upset but now not letting us know, thus allowing scary things to get closer and possibly end up bitten. Dr. Ian Dunbar calls this “removing the ticker from the time bomb”. Much better to make the dog comfortable around what he’s growling at so he’s not motivated to make it go away in the first place.

8: Playing tug makes dogs aggressive.

There is no evidence that this is so. The only study ever done found no correlation between playing tug and the incidence of aggression directed at either family members or strangers. Tug is, in fact, a cooperative behaviour directed at simulated prey: the toy.

9: If you give dogs chew toys, they’ll learn to chew everything.

This is a Pandora’s Box type of argument that has zero evidence to support it. Dogs are excellent discriminators and readily learn to distinguish their toys from forbidden items with minimal training. The argument is also logically flawed as chewing is a behaviour that waxes and wanes depending on satiation/deprivation. Dogs without chew objects are like zoo animals in barren cages. Unless there is good compensation with other enrichment activities, there is actually a welfare issue.

10: You can’t modify “genetic” behaviour.

All behaviour is a product of an interplay between genes and the environment. And while some behaviours require less learning than others, or no learning at all, their modifiability varies as much as does the modifiability of behaviours that are primarily learned.

Thanks to Jean Donaldson

For information, articles and free training resources including full colour posters for children, visit:

Happy Holidays with your Hound!

So, you’re completely organised, ready and waiting for the days to pass until you are all off on your holidays. You’ve thought of everything you may need and are probably packing the kitchen sink too…..but have you given as much consideration to your pet’s needs on this annual jaunt? It just wouldn’t be a proper family holiday without the most beloved member….

Paddy – My Happy Hound!
Many holiday cottage companies offer dog-friendly cottages across Britain and if you are going to stay in one of them, why not take a look at our checklist for a happy holiday with your pooch?
With dogs in tow, you can enjoy the long nature walks here in Norfolk or along the coastline, as well as being welcomed in many pubs for a well earned pie and a pint after all that hard work!


There are some restrictions in place for walking dogs on popular Norfolk beaches from May to end of September. However, you only have to walk a little to either side of popular beaches and the restrictions are lifted. Areas where dogs must be kept on leads, or where they are banned entirely, are clearly signposted.

Restrictions apply on parts of the following beaches from 1 May to 30 September:

Bacton, Cromer, Mundesley, Overstrand, Sea Palling,  Sheringham, Walcott and West Runton.

Brancaster Beach & Harbour – Restrictions may apply: Dogs – Under control at all times on the beach; not on Scolt Head Island mid-April – mid-August. Dog-free area on

Brancaster Beach, West of golf clubhouse May – September.

Many of the National Trust beaches welcome dogs all year round. There are also a small number of beaches where there are restrictions in place during busy or sensitive seasons for breeding wildlife.

Running Free…..

Top tips…

Thoroughly research the area where you are staying for suitable walks and activities – the local tourist information centre is a good place to start.

Familiarise yourself with your cottages policy on dogs – are they allowed upstairs?

Make sure about the number of dogs allowed in your cottage.

Research vets in the area, print out their details to take with you and put local vet’s number in your mobile.

Is your dog insured?

Dog ID tags up to date? Consider an extra tag with holiday accommodation details on.

Microchip details up to date?

Brush up your dog’s basic obedience. Your neighbours won’t appreciate a bad tempered dog and neither will the cottage owners! You will, of course, want to come back next year….

Kitchen Sink Plus…..

Don’t forget to pack all the essentials for your pampered pooch!

Leads and collars.

Food – weigh out your dogs food into individual bags for each day, so that you only take what you need.


Food and water bowls.

First aid kit.

Travel crate or dog bed.

Grooming equipment – to de-sand Fido at the end of a long day on the beach.

Blankets and toys.

Portable water bowl for walks.

Poo bags – lots of them!

Last but not least….

Don’t leave your dog in a car without good ventilation and shade – hot cars can kill, obviously.
Please clear up dog waste and dispose of it sensibly, obviously.
Failure to comply with Local Council dog restrictions could incur a fine of up to £1000, yikes!

Fi Woolcock,

Woofs and Growls

Woofs and Growls by canine behaviour specialist Jez Rose

Dogs, much like children, don’t come with an instruction manual and more’s the pity! I see people all the time enforcing restriction, cuddles or petting on their dogs, despite the dog telling them that they are not comfortable with it. It is simple and enjoyable to have a safe and fun relationship with your dog but they do have teeth and if forced to use them, they will. The use of their teeth is both predictable and preventable.

Dogs don’t just bite without reason, so it’s important that adults as well as children, learn how to greet dogs properly and at the same time, that dogs learn how to be friendly around people – especially children. Many dogs find children a bit spooky. Dogs communicate through complex, co-ordinated body movements, yet children are bundles of energy and uncoordinated movement who often run head-first towards dogs. They don’t see the dog offering very loud signs, in dog language, telling the child that they don’t feel comfortable with their rather clumsy, energetic approach.

The Young Person's Guide to Woofs and Growls

So here’s my quick guide on how to ensure a safe and enjoyable relationship with your dog:

1: Respect the dog’s space. Tell children not to approach the dog – allow the dog to come to them. When the dog does approach, keep quiet and calm.
2: Walk calmly and quietly when the dog is around: loud noises and lots of movement may scare the dog or over excite them.
3: Never go near to or disturb a dog when they are sleeping or eating.
4: Never, ever, under any circumstances leave children and dogs unattended – no matter how safe you believe the dog is. Both are naturally inquisitive, however, neither speak the same language and children aren’t taught what to look for in a dog’s body language; ways that show it may be upset, fearful or anxious: three things that often precede a dog bite.
5: Learn to “speak dog”. With even a very basic understanding of how dogs communicate, we can better understand them and adjust our behaviour accordingly.

When a dog’s hackles are raised (the hair at the scruff of their neck and along their back stands on end), it is commonly misconceived that this is aggression. It is actually caused by fear: the dog is scared but makes itself look scary in hope the scary thing will go away. I always aim to act before the dog shows fear or growls, as there are plenty of signals we can pick up on before it gets to this stage.

Have you ever noticed your dog yawning when it isn’t tired, panting when it isn’t particularly hot, licking its’ lips, narrowing its eyes or even turning its head away or lowering its head when you approach it, attempt to stroke or cuddle it? These are all what are commonly known as calming signals; subtle gestures the dog makes to indicate that it isn’t comfortable as a response to stress. The best way to respond to these is to stop what you are doing, or were about to do with the dog or change the environment. For example, if you have some of your children’s friends over and they are all happily playing but you notice that the dog is panting and turning its head even though it isn’t a hot day, take the dog to a safe zone where the children are not allowed to disturb it and ask the children to respect the dog’s space and needs. Many dog owners are guilty of forgetting that, although domesticated, dogs are animals none the less.

If you feed your dog in a bowl, I strongly recommend that you put the bowl into early retirement: they make quirky birdbaths and some plants really thrive in them! Start feeding your dog by hand: all the adults in the house should feed the dog its’ everyday food but you should reserve extra special things like bacon fat, cooked chicken or liver treats for children to give the dog under adult supervision. If your dog doesn’t have gentle jaws, the children can simply toss the food onto the floor in front of the dog. The dog learns very quickly that these small bundles of energy and movement are actually pretty good to have around as they deliver the best food, therefore, creating a positive association with them.

For information, articles and free training resources including full colour posters for children, visit: