Posted: 14 Mar 2012 03:00 AM PDT
A lot of people (including Mr. Metro DC Dog Blog) enjoy this classic Discovery Channel TV show, but we have found that plenty of myths are waiting to be busted in real life -- especially with dogs.
Let us explain.
We work on a volunteer basis walking dogs for a rescue group, and last week we had the privilege of working with what looked to us like a Pit Bull mix. We had a great time interacting with this gentle girl. First, we took her for a stroll and bathroom break. Then, because she wanted to use her leash as a tug toy, we took her back to her large enclosure, brought with us a real tug toy, and engaged in a hearty tug session with her there. As we did so, another volunteer walked by and said, "Boy, that's a really vicious Pit Bull you're playing with." (We knew he was totally kidding.)
Periodically, that "vicious" Pit Bull would drop the tug toy. Whenever she did so, we asked her to sit -- and when she did, we offered her the toy for another couple of minutes of tugging. Finally, when we decided we'd had enough of an upper body workout, we ended the game and gave the dog the toy. She placed it at her feet, gave us a doggie kiss, lay down on her side and proceeded to take a nap.
Only after we left her enclosure did we realize that we'd inadvertently given the lie to a couple of myths about dogs:
Pit bulls are inherently vicious. Um, no. They may be raised by people to be vicious to other dogs (see Vick, Michael) -- but that's the fault of the people, not the Pitties. And even among those who are reared in that manner, plenty can be rehabilitated.
Playing tug-of-war makes a dog aggressive. Wrong again. Tug-of-war can be a great game to play with most dogs. For some, a game of tug helps build confidence; for others, the game is also a learning opportunity, and for many, the game helps siphon off excess energy. Renowned trainer/behavioral counselor Pat Miller, whose Peaceable Paws training facility is in Hagerstown, explains more about why tug is a good game for many dogs, and how to help a dog get the maximum benefit from a tug session.
That got us to thinking about other times when we've played mythbuster without realizing that we were. Take, for example, the old idea that "you can't teach an old dog new tricks." Long ago, we taught a nine-year-old dog how to catch a Frisbee and bring it back to us. And, of course, there's one of our favorite videos of all time: a 13-year-old Golden Retriever learning all kinds of new tricks with the help of a clicker -- and clearly having a blast while doing so.
What myths have you and your dog been busting lately?