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Behavior Myths in Dogs

Posted September 12, 2012 in Advice Column, West Des Moines

Many behaviors that people attribute to dogs are, in fact, myths. For example:

My dog is aggressive or fearful because he was abused as a pup.
Although possible, in most cases it is difficult to prove this as the dog’s history is unknown.
•    It is far more likely that the dog was not socialized properly during the critical 4- to 14-week period.
•    Some dogs are genetically predisposed to shyness.
•    Any pet exhibiting these traits needs evaluation from a veterinarian.

My dog knows what he did was wrong
Although we all like to think our dogs are this knowing, the fact is that they are actually responding to your verbal and non-verbal cues.
•    The dog is not saying “I’m sorry,” but rather, “Please quit acting angry with me.”
•    Dogs do not do things out of spite or hatred. Most often a lack of proper stimulation or exercise is the reason for the behavior.
•    Punishment this far after the fact is not helpful and could be harmful.

I don’t want to talk to my veterinarian about my pet’s behavior; he or she will think I am the cause of the problem!
Behavior issues are seldom simply due to one issue.
•    Genetics, environment and early experiences all play a role.
•    Many medical conditions or even medications can contribute to behavior changes
•    Your veterinarian is the best person to consult when pet’s display behavior issues and sooner is always better than later.

 Many thanks to Dr. Valarie Tynes, Diplomate ACVB, for her words of wisdom with this article.  For these and six more behavior tips, check out our website: or email us at

Information provided by Dr. Jen Emerson-Mathis, Family Pet Veterinary Center, 224-9750, or

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