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Reach Out Rescue & Resources is a small group of rescuers with a large amount of passion for dogs and cats!!
Last Updated:
1/21/2021 1:31 PM

TRUE OR FALSE - Myths and Facts

There are so many wives tales and misunderstandings when it comes to dogs behaviors that we felt this might be a helpful page for you. If you have questions about something and would like us to add to this, please email us at

Dogs with black tongues have Chow Chow in them.

FALSE: There are over 27 breeds of dogs that have the birth mark of black on their tongues... including but not limited to purebred Golden Retrievers, purebred Labrador Retrievers, purebred German Shepherds, and more. Actually Chow Chows have black/purple tongues, so the likelihood of maybe some chow in a dog is possible when there are purple tongues, however, it could also be Shar Pei. Black on the tongue of a mix is not uncommon and you should consider the temperament of the dog rather than the color of the tongue.

All Pit Bulls will attack other dogs.

FALSE: Like any breed, if a dog is raised with good socialization during it's formulative time it will be good with other dogs. However, even dogs who have come from abuse oftentimes still maintain a friendliness towards other dogs.

Table scraps are bad for dogs.

FALSE: If it's good for humans, it's good for dogs with the exception of grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, onions and chocolate. Other things might not settle well with a dog like milk or gassy vegetables like brussell sprouts... or lettuce... but none of it is harmful. The premium diet for dogs today is "raw" and it literally includes all types of vegetables and fruits. So you can add some leftover potatoes or green beans to your dogs' food... it is actually healthy for them. NEVER give a dog cooked bones of any kind.

Always wipe your dogs' feet after a walk in winter.

TRUE: The de-icers used on the walks and streets are harmful to your dogs feet and in some cases can be toxic and if the dog licks it's foot, be ready to head to emergency... it's always safter to wipe the feet than to ignore it. And remember to keep your dogs toenails trimmed.

Old dogs can't learn new tricks.

FALSE: Old dogs actually will respond faster and with greater dedication to training and trying to please their new owners. There is no such thing as an old dog that cannot be trained or re-trained. You will always find the greatest satisfaction and bond with a senior dog.

Dogs are color blind.

FALSE: While they cannot distinguish the myriad of colors our eyes can, they can distinguish some colors and have better peripherial vision than humans. They are red-green color blind only and see a brighter less detailed world than humans.

A warm nose means a dog is sick.

FALSE: A warm nose is no indication if a dog is sick on not. BUT lethargy, runny nose, lack of appetite, light or white gums, not drinking, do and you should get your dog to a vet asap.

A wagging tail means a dog is friendly.

FALSE: A wagging tail is one of the many signs of body language all persons should learn. A tail wagging back and forth like a pedulum on a clock is a sure sign to go the other way. The dog is not sure what the situation is and what he will do but it is not in your best interest to push this.

Dogs humping means they want to have sex.

FALSE: While intact males may do this as a way of natural procreation, most often it is a form of dominace and will be done by females as well as males. It merely tells another dog that the humping dog is more dominant and superior.

When a dog scoots it means a problem.

TRUE: Most often it means worms or an impacted anal glad but no matter what is it, when you see your dog "scoot", get it to a vet.

Female dogs should go through one heat before being spayed.

FALSE: This is a very controversial topic. While at one time pediatric spay and neuters were being performed, time has shown that this is not desireable as often the dogs do not fully develop physically and emotionally (basically stay a pup all their lives). But to delay the spay/neuter beyond 5-8 months of age, puts the dog as risk of developing the number one preventable cancer of dogs. The best age to spay/neuter a pup is usually around 5-8 mos... their hormones have come into play, they are already going into "teens" in doggie years and an ideal time to get the dog altered and safest to stop any unwanted pregnancies.

If you can’t see fleas, they’re gone.

FALSE: Actually, adult fleas living on your pet account for only about 5% of the total flea population in your home. The other 95% are in various stages of the life-cycle, and can be hiding in upholstery, bedding, landscaping and more.

Fleas and ticks are only a problem during warm weather.

FALSE: If weather alone were enough to keep insects from thriving, we wouldn’t have fleas and ticks at all! In inclimate weather, these pests find places to hide – and survive – until it’s nice out again.

Fleas and ticks are only problems for pets.

FALSE: There are actually plenty of diseases your family can catch from fleas or ticks in your environment, including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Indoor dogs do not need to be on heartworm preventative.

FALSE: All dogs in the southern states need heartworm prevention. Heartworm is serious, expensive and painful to treat and will kill if untreated. While we do not advocate giving heartworm preventative every month, we do believe every 6 weeks is a good schedule to keep your dog on it. We also recommend that you use Interceptor because when dealing with mixes, we have no idea of the true breeds in each dog and certain breeds ie shelties, collies, aussies, etc. cannot handle ivermectin which is in Heartguard and other heartworm preventative products. But it's very important that you keep your dog on a preventative to avoid this fatal disease. Heartworm is carried by mosquitos and those pesky bugs do come inside.

Dogs eat poop for fun.

TRUE: Coprophagia or eating their own excrement is probably the most disgusting habit a dog will get. It's really hard to diagnose... and can come from a variety of reasons. Going from feeding a puppy twice a day to once a day might encourage this to fill their stomachs. Learning this great thing from other dogs just as a pure habit.

Mother dogs will clean their pups and eat their excrement to keep them clean so there is the thought that this habit is inherent and some females never outgrow this need... yet it does not explain male dogs with this desire.

There are so many thoughts on how to stop this like products on the market, feeding pineapple, etc. the one sure way to stop this behavior is to basically pick up the poop as soon as the dog is done and get rid of it. Staying on top of this and watching your dog so it does not seek it out is the only true way to stop this. It's retraining and consistency, and the dog learning the term "leave it".

Dogs eat rocks, lick concrete or eat their or another animals stools because of nutrient imbalances.

FALSE: No one really knows why dogs do this... some veternarians believe they eat "things" out of boredom. The truth is, if you feed a dog a good well balanced diet and provide plenty of exercise, this will reduce the chances of your dog eating un-natural things.

Dogs like tasty food.

FALSE: Dogs have very poor taste buds so they "taste" through their sense of smell.

Dogs lick to heal wounds.

FALSE: While licking can in fact help with some minimal healing, it can also lead to lick sores and can even infect an existing wound. If it becomes habitual, it may be the result of a behavioral or stress issue. Licking is often stress related.

Dogs eat grass when they are sick.

FALSE: As decendants from wolves, a daily part of the diet included berries and grasses. So it is quite normal for a dog to eat some grass. Excessive amounts might need to be examined by a vet. There is Clorophyll in grass and that in itself is a naturally occurring healing agent... so there is some truth in grass POSSIBLY helping with an upset stomach.

All dogs like to be petted on their heads.

FALSE: While some dogs are accepting of this, not all will. Depending on a dogs' past experiences they may be hand shy. The safest way always to pet a dog is going under the chin.

An old dog can't learn new tricks.

FALSE: Old dogs not only learn new tricks but they thrive when trained. My late Pomeranian, Mr. Teddy, who was adopted at an estimated 10 to 13 years of age, was a training superstar in Vetstreet videos, which were filmed two weeks before he passed away. By the same token, older dogs without housetraining experience as puppies can successfully be housetrained. As long as a dog is mentally and physically capable of learning to perform a behavior and is properly motivated, it's entirely possible to train her. While intense agility training for Teddy was not realistic, teaching basic commands was.

A dog shouldn't sleep with you or be allowed on furniture, or she'll think she's the boss and will misbehave.

FALSE: Just like humans, dogs simply want a comfortable place to lie down. If comfort can be combined with being next to their beloved human, whether it's right next to you on the couch, or even on top of your lap, then they're all for it. In rare cases, dogs will guard their sleeping and resting areas, and will show aggression when humans approach these sacred areas. This type of behavior will require remedial training. But for the average Rover, sleeping in bed or resting on the couch has no adverse behavioral effects.

When your dog has a potty accident, it's important to rub her nose in it to let her know what she did

FALSE: When you rub a dog's nose in her own mess, she often sees no association between that and her having had a potty accident. Nor does rubbing her nose in her accident teach her not to potty on the floor again. Instead, rubbing her nose in her accident teaches her that humans are dangerous and unpredictable, and she will likely begin to hide in safety by sneaking into another room to go to the bathroom, making housebreaking even more difficult.

A dog who cowers from people was likely abused in the past.

FALSE: There are various reasons for dogs cowering, and not all of them are because a dog was abused. Commonly, the dog was not properly socialized or had negative experiences during her prime socialization period as a puppy. Genetics also play a role in the fearful dog. Other reasons for a dog to duck away might be that she has learned to dodge people who try to grab her collar, or she is uncomfortable with petting, such as having her ears handled. Unfortunately, well-meaning strangers often approach dogs by bending over the top of their heads and reaching down to pet, which will send timid dogs into a cowering position. A better way to approach is by getting into a kneeling position, with your body turned toward the side, and then inviting the dog to approach you. If you practice this method, it will be less likely to cause a canine to cower.

Shelter dogs have too much baggage. It's better to adopt a puppy to start with a clean slate.

FALSE: Many shelter dogs are well-behaved pooches who, for an endless list of possible reasons, could not be kept by their original owners. Older shelter dogs make ideal candidates for people wanting to skip the puppy stages of chewing, potty training and mouthing. The interview process at most shelters also pairs canine candidates with the family setting that will best suit the dog's temperament, which can create cohesion from the beginning.

All dogs should enjoy being around other dogs. It's essential for dogs to go on outings with other dogs, such as at the dog park. If a dog doesn't enjoy other dogs, there is something wrong with her.

FALSE: Not all people are social butterflies and neither are all dogs. Some dogs may prefer solitude and only a small, select group of people. Dogs also have their own preferences when it comes to other canines. Breeding can play a big role in their sociability, with terriers being notorious for contentiousness with other pooches. Other times, whether from lack of socialization as a puppy or simply an individual preference, dogs may not enjoy canine comradery. Even though plenty of dogs enjoy the dog park, not all of them enjoy the idea of dozens of other dogs frolicking around them and would instead prefer a quiet walk with their owners.

You should let dogs just fight it out when they get into a scuffle.

FALSE: (well, at least partly false). It's true that you should never get into the middle of a dog fight, because some of the most damaging dog bites occur when owners try to separate fighting dogs. There are some tactics you can use to break up the scuffle without actually getting in the middle of the fray. Try using water, a really loud noise, or even a distraction like grabbing a treat bag or using voice to direct them to do something else. Owners should do everything they can to prevent another fight in the future. Often dogs don't settle matters on their own, and fighting intensifies over time, especially with dogs in the same home. This calls for advanced training with the help of an animal behaviorist or a certified professional trainer.

My dog is trying to show she's in charge when she doesn't listen to me.

FALSE: It's easy to attribute human motives like "getting even" or "being spiteful" to our dogs, but dogs don't have the same complex emotions as humans. The more realistic reasons why a dog doesn't do what's being asked is either because she doesn't understand what she's being asked to do, or the dog doesn't have the proper motivation to want to perform the behavior. For example, most dogs don't come when called because the payoff isn't worth it. When they do, they usually are put on a leash or taken into the house when they'd rather stay outside.

My dog knows she was bad after she goes potty in the house. Her guilty face says it all.

FALSE: Dogs show a perceived "guilty face" not because they feel an actual emotion of guilt, but they are actually showing appeasement behaviors in response to their owners intimidating body language. Whether we want to or not, it's difficult not to display negative body language when we're upset with our pets. A 2009 study by researcher Alexandra Horowitz at Barnard College in New York revealed that the "guilty look" dogs display is solely attributed by humans and has no relation to whether the dog is actually responsible for an offense. The study found that dogs who had not actually eaten the forbidden treat, but were scolded by their misinformed owners for eating a treat, showed guiltier-looking body language than dogs who had actually eaten the forbidden treat. The guilty look is simply a response of the dog to her owner's behavior.

It's always the owner's fault when a dog misbehaves.

FALSE: Most owners are well-meaning, but are simply misinformed or lack knowledge on how to train their dogs effectively. Blaming the owner for all of a dog's problems makes for good TV, but there are a myriad of reasons why a dog misbehaves, including lack of proper socialization or preventive training, or even the genetic tendencies of the dog. It's important for pet parents to push past feelings of shame or guilt; instead get started in the right direction with help from a pet professional using positive reinforcement methods.

Using treats for training is bribery, and the dog won't do the behavior later if you don't give her a treat.

FALSE: It's true that dogs need motivation to perform a behavior. That said, the motivation doesn't always have to be a food-based reward. Dogs can be rewarded in many other ways. Reward them with playing, petting or getting to go outside. They can also be put on a random schedule of rewards with a lottery-ticket-like system so they never know when the payout will come. This system helps keep them motivated. For example: learning to walk on a loose leash may be taught in the beginning by using treats, but once the behavior is learned, treats can be phased out so that the only reward becomes getting to go on the walk itself.

When a dog chews up shoes or destroys furniture it's because she's punishing the owner.

FALSE: Dogs chew on shoes, furniture and other human items not to punish their owners, but simply because it feels good on their teeth, it relieves boredom, releases energy and, in some cases, may indicate separation anxiety.

A dog can't really be happy unless she can run off-leash.

FALSE: Leashes are made for a dog's safety. They should be perceived as tools that keep your dog from running into oncoming traffic, going up to unknown dogs or people, and prevent them from running way. Although regular off-leash play in a fenced area is essential for a dog's well-being, while out in public, dogs can learn to be perfectly content on a leash at their owner's side.

Dogs are great judges of people, so if a dog doesn't like someone, it must mean there is something wrong with that person.

FALSE: In the majority of cases, dogs who react aggressively or fearfully to a person are not doing so out of a negative moral evaluation of the individual, but are responding out of their own self-preservation. With that said, there have been plenty of circumstances where pets have used an apparent sixth sense to pick up on cues that went unseen by their human and actually saved their human's life. However, the majority of dogs I see in my training practice are unfriendly with a person because they are reacting out of fear to a certain physical attribute, movement or the physical proximity of a person, and are not reacting based on any moral evaluation of the individual