With so much advice out there, navigating puppy training can be confusing for pet parents. You may wonder, “Should I rub my puppy’s nose in their accidents?” or “Should I use treats or toys as a reward?” To separate fact from fiction, we’ve debunked five common training myths that could be stand in the way of your pup’s progress.

Myth 1: You should rub your puppy’s nose in their accidents

Unfortunately, this is the most common misconception and can make toilet training much more difficult. Puppies don’t naturally grasp the concept of outdoor toileting; their only instinct is not to go where they sleep; everywhere else is fair game! Resorting to rubbing their nose in their mess will only make them fear you, which can lead to them hiding when they need to relieve themselves.

Positive reinforcement, such as encouraging and rewarding your puppy for appropriate behaviour, creates a healthier and more trusting bond between you and your pup.

Myth 2: Repeat commands excessively

A typical mistake is repeating commands like “Sit” multiple times until your puppy obeys. This repetition can train your pup to ignore you until you’ve repeated yourself several times, which can be frustrating. To avoid this, ensure you have your puppy’s attention when you give a command. And only give the command once until they understand what it means.

Myth 3: Treats are more effective than praise

The choice between treats and praise as rewards depends on your puppy’s motivation. Some dogs are highly food-motivated and find treats enticing, while others respond well to praise, affection, or playing with toys. Treats are often used for initial training to teach new behaviours, while praise is often used to reinforce established behaviour. Experiment with treats, praise, and toys to determine what best motivates your puppy.

Myth 4: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks

Dogs, like humans, continue to learn throughout their lives. While they go through a big learning phase during puppyhood, learning doesn’t stop at a particular age. As long as you reward them with their favourite treat or toy when they do something you ask, they’ll continue to learn.

Myth 5: Playing tug-of-war increases aggression

Some puppies get so involved in a game of tug-a-war that they growl and nip, which can be mistaken as reinforcing aggressive behaviour. When played in a controlled environment where you set the rules, tug-a-war can be a valuable tool. It allows you to teach your pup basic commands like ‘drop’, builds your pup’s confidence, and encourages them to play with toys instead of nipping your hands. Tug-a-war can be a fun bonding experience while providing a healthy outlet for your puppy’s energy.

For more advice on puppy training, speak to your vet.