Saturday, January 29, 2011

Don't Be Fooled by These 12 Common Pet Myths

For many, many years now I have helped (or tried to help) others work through behavioral problems with their animals; specifically retired racing greyhounds that have been newly placed into homes after retiring from the track. However, along with the greyhound placement, often times other pets are involved as well as children.

My Dad knows this and being an animal lover too he took the time to send me the following article. I endorse this article whole-heartedly and would like to throw into the mix that in the majority of cases where animals do not work out in a home it is not the animal’s fault; it is the human’s lack of understanding the animal or misconceptions about what is really going on. I have told countless people to read the materials I give and recommend to them in order to better communicate with their pets and learn to think ‘on their pet’s level’ as pets do *not* have the ability to think on the human’s level. 

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERARenner: Hey, I’m trying to tell you something but you just aren’t *getting* it!

Below are some very common misconceptions being discussed by Amy Shojai that you may find interesting. Take them to heart; it could make all the difference when it comes to working with your well loved animals. Hopefully it will spur further interest and you will research a bit more to help you form a better and more nurturing relationship with your pets. I hope some part of what Amy Shojai has written catches your eye and helps you to consider communicating from your *pet’s point of view* instead of assuming they can figure out *yours*. Hopefully it will make things a lot easier for you and your pet:

For centuries, people created fanciful stories to explain puzzling animal antics. Many of these myth-understandings about cat and dog behaviors linger on, even though modern veterinary and behavior experts have uncovered scientific explanations for these issues. Here we lay 12 common myths to rest.

Myth 1: Dogs and cats enjoy being hugged. People are by nature touchy-feely creatures. Dogs and cats on the other hand, grab and hold prey, and "hug" during mating or fighting. Pets may enjoy nuzzling and getting affection akin to hugging, or there may be a reason why they should be sensitized to being hugged, but it is good to remember that your pet may also confuse a hug with aggression.

Myth 2: Cats seek out people who hate cats. It can seem that way. A cat lover's admiring stares and "kitty, kitty, kitty" calls can be off-putting. So in a crowded room, a cat often seeks the only person ignoring her. Besides, cat lovers may already smell like strange cats, so she'll be more attracted to the cat-free-zone human.

Myth 3: Dogs that are aggressive are showing dominance. Actually, it is fearful dogs that most often aggress to make a scary situation go away. A top dog rarely aggresses because other dogs accept he's the boss. You do however see pushy dogs learn to use snarls to get their way, or clueless adolescent dogs act up because they've gotten too big for their furry britches and want to challenge the real boss.

Myth 4: Dogs and cats are jealous of the phone. The phone rings and suddenly your pet demands attention. This can certainly be annoying but their behavior is logical when you realize why they're doing it. From you pet's perspective, you're talking and there's nobody else around -- so you must be talking to your pet!

Myth 5: Dogs wag their tails when they are happy. Not always. Dogs wag when excited, when fearful, when happy or even to signal imminent attack. The position of the tail, and frequency of wags, is a better indicator of happiness. Low-held tails with slow, loose wags usually signal, "Come closer; I want to be friends."

Myth 6: Dogs and cats learn only if you punish them.
No. Punishment actually can interfere with pets' ability to learn. Punishment can make behaviors worse and can cause fear aggression. Instead, you need to teach an alternative to bad behavior.

Myth 7: Dogs catch on to house training more quickly when you rub their noses in their accidents. Absolutely not. But this does teach the dog that humans sometimes go nuts and seemingly want them to eat their poop! Talk about confusing. Punishing for a normal behavior like going to the bathroom encourages dogs to hide it better the next time. Instead, catch your dog in the act of targeting the right spot and reward with praise or treats for the most effective lesson.

Myth 8: Cats always land on their feet. It is true that cats have balance organs in the inner ear that allow a cat to contract and flex the spine, shoulders and flanks to land on her feet in amazing ways. But there are many factors involved. Falls from too short a distance -- being dropped by a child, for example -- won't allow enough time for a paw landing. Conversely, landing feet first from a fall from a great height can break bones and seriously injure the cat.

Myth 9: Cats purr when they are happy. Often they do. But think of the cat's purr as a feline smile -- do you smile only when happy? Purring soothes kitty emotions (and humans as well), and the vibration relieves pain and speeds healing, so purring can happen when a cat is happy, injured or just needs to comfort himself.

Myth 10: Cats wet the bed and dogs destroy furniture and other items in the house because they are angry. There are many possible physical, emotional and/or instinctual reasons for these normal behaviors -- none having to do with anger or vengefulness. Items that smell like you (bed, shoes, purse) are targeted because your scent comforts the pet. Consider that a back-handed compliment, not spite.

Myth 11: Cats suck the breath from babies. Yes, this old wives tale is still around. Curious cats may check out milky-smelling infant breath or be attracted to a warm crib. They are not trying to harm the baby, but pets should always be supervised around infants.

Myth 12: Dogs alpha roll each other. A study of captive wolves (later debunked) gave rise to this theory. Dogs roll onto their backs to expose their tummies to other animals -- or people -- and signal deference and non-threat. Dogs willingly show their tummies to people or other dogs they want to placate or acquiesce. But even alpha dogs show their tummies to invite puppies and subordinate dogs to play. Dogs do not force other dogs onto their backs to prove leadership. Alpha rolling your dog may confuse or frighten him and some dogs even fight back. Don't risk it!

Jan 21st 2011 @ 11:00AM Filed Under: Cats, Pet Health

Amy D. Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant and the award-winning author of 23 pet care books, including "Complete Care for Your Aging Cat" and "Complete Care for Your Aging Dog."

We are also Pet Blog hopping!

This week’s pet blog hop hosted by Life With Dogs, Two Little Cavaliers and Confessions of the Plume.  If you'd like to participate, please  follow the rules and follow your three hosts, add your blog to the Linky and copy and paste the html code into your html editor (found at Life With Dogs, Two Little Cavaliers and Confessions of the Plume). Thanks again to our hosts for putting on the hop!


  1. I'm proud to say that I already knew all of those were myths, but I am so glad you shared it! I've read several sad stories lately of people who hadn't a clue what they were doing with a dog and the results were never good for the dog.

  2. Thanks for sharing these. Although I'm well aware of these things, I hope those that don't know as much about animals will read and learn. I just cringe that there are people that still don't know some of these are myths. I constantly see people looking for a home for their pet because of "behavior problems." Sigh.

  3. Well done for posting this. I hope lots of people read and take note of it.

  4. Thanks for the article. I was aware of some but there was a few that caught my attention. Thanks for the great post.

  5. Really good post and I think the first one about hugging is a great one to publicise as I know it's one a lot of well-meaning adults and children can sometimes come a cropper with.

    Love Winnie

  6. Thanks for sharing this article.
    You can never stress the importance of striving to know what each individual dog or cat says enough.
    They are all so different and needs to be understood at different levels, instead of being generally judged.

    We have never had cats but I have noticed this point that u mentioned about cats finding the most unintersted person to be with, true.

  7. Although I knew this information, it is wonderful to be refreshed.

    Learning body language is so very important in living with your animal. With the horses I always avoided hiring men as grooms whenever possible.

    Women and girls rarely fight a horse, they understand the horses body language and use finesse. Men often try to overpower them and usually ignore the woman who tells them to use finesse...

    BrownDog's Momma

  8. I am SO glad you posted this! I've literally just this evening had to back off from a thread on a big greyhound board because one person in particular could not seem to get his head around the fact that dogs do not 'do' vengeance, but instead will benefit from people who learn normal dog behaviour and social signals and try to understand where they are coming from. He insists he can never know what motivates a dog because he is not a 'mind reader' Sheesh. I had to say my piece and leave him to argue black is white without me as an audience.

    And I've just signed up to learn to be a Blue Cross educational speaker. Hopefully it will help reduce the ignorance, if only in a tiny way. Fingers crossed!




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