Yesterday I was researching client resources for animal behavior when I ran across this great myth-busting article, written for veterinarians by veterinary behaviorist Dr. Valerie Tynes back in 2008: 10 life-threatening behavior myths. It’s so good I wonder how I ever missed it.


"Puppies shouldn't go to puppy classes until they have had all their vaccinations, or they will get sick."

Dr. T responds in much greater detail on the benefits of socialization in her article, but here’s what she concludes:

"The fact is, more of your patients are likely to die because of behavior problems than of infectious diseases such as parvovirus infection or distemper, so teaching your clients the importance of proper socialization is critical."


"Crazy owners have crazy pets."

Though this may seem to make superficial sense, studies have demonstrated no correlation between pet owner personalities you’d think would make pets crazy and actual behavior problems. Here’s her conclusion:

"The fact is, for many behavior problems, early recognition and appropriate management can improve a pet's behavior, strengthen the owner-pet bond, and help avoid relinquishment. An owner's personality has little, if any influence."


"My dog is aggressive/fearful/shy because she was abused as a puppy."

This one is a pet peeve of mine, too. If all the animals my clients claim have been abused were actually abused, there would have to be an army of sociopathic puppy kickers out there to wreak such widespread havoc in the canine world.

"The fact is, an animal's behavior is a result of the complex interaction between its genes and its environment. It can rarely be attributed to a single event, and even if it can be, change is still possible."


"This new medication will treat your pet's [insert behavior problem here]."

If the last myth was for misguided pet owners, this one is for veterinarians who’d prefer to sell a pill than put the time into a discussion on behavior modification.

"The fact is, psychotropic medications are not cure-alls, but they do help relieve anxiety, may help to calm a dog, and, most important, can raise the threshold for responding to stimuli, putting the dog in a state of mind in which it can learn the new tasks that a behavior modification program is intended to teach it. Research shows that dogs receiving medication may respond more rapidly to a behavior modification program, probably for similar reasons. They learn more readily because they are not anxious or afraid all the time."


"Dogs that are aggressive are acting dominant."

That one’s a no-brainer, though Cesar’s impact on the U.S. canine culture hasn’t helped any.

"The fact is, aggression is more often related to fear or anxiety than to dominance. Take time to teach your clients appropriate interactions with dogs that have aggressive tendencies to keep everyone safe and happy."


Stay tuned for Tuesday’s post when I’ll offer you five more. For now, content yourselves with these five, and feel free to offer up more behavior myths in your comments below to see how closely your answers match up with Dr. Tynes'.

Dr. Patty Khuly

Pic of the day: Attack of a crazy dog by anton.kovalyov

 crazy dog, dog behavior, normal dog behavior, behavior myths