Of course you would never rub your puppy’s nose in his poop when he has an accident. And what kind of craziness is it to swat a dog for getting into the trash?
What about that dog training advice that might be good—for someone else? But it’s perfectly awful for you.
And how do you know it’s bad advice before you try it?
Bad Advice – Separation Anxiety
I loved my first dogs, Agatha and Christie. But they were the duo from hell.
Their household snacks included not one but two couches, a shelf of expensive cook books, and an oriental rug. They embarrassed me in front of company. They got into horrendous fights that sometimes ended in bloodshed.
But everything paled in comparison with their reaction whenever I left the house.
Before the key turned in the lock, they began howling. I could still hear them when I got to the corner of my block.
To this day, I hold their howling responsible for the crack addiction of my neighbors who shared a party wall with us.
One day I found a book that addressed separation anxiety. It had the usual advice:
- Start off leaving for a short time and build up the dog’s tolerance for your absence.
- Make your leaving routine calm and matter-of-fact.
- Provide really yummy treats to entertain your dogs in your absence.
But it also had this little nugget: Surprise your dogs by exiting from different places. Don’t always go out the front door. Exit through the garage, the back door, or even a window.
I gave it my best effort. But the author, who I can’t remember after all these years, obviously had a suburban tract house in mind, not a three-story, urban town house with security concerns.
To exit by the back door, I had to scramble over the six-foot stockade fence so it remained locked after I went to work. If I didn’t, I was just inviting local thieves to use the protection of my fence to spend time breaking into the house.
Oh, and climbing out a window? Don’t forget the seven-foot drop from the first floor. Mind your first step, it’s a doozy.
The advice was well-intended. It might work great for someone else. But it did nothing to cure Agatha and Christie’s anxiety when I left the house. On the other hand, it certainly increased mine.
Bad Advice – Chasing Squirrels
I have to start by apologizing to Victoria Schade for including her in this post. Her book Bonding with Your Dog: A Trainer’s Secrets for Building a Better Relationship is one of my favorites. It opened me up to all kinds of new ways to strengthen my relationship with my dog. I recommend it without reservations.
But one piece of advice was not meant for me. And I was stupid to take it.
Among the games it suggested playing on a walk was this one: Ask your dog to remain calm in front of squirrels. Then, when you have her attention, reward her by saying, “Let’s chase” and taking off with her after the squirrels.
Y’know, out in the woods it’s probably a lot of fun.
But here in town, we have kamikaze squirrels. They don’t go rushing up into the trees when they’re chased. They dart into the street, in front of oncoming traffic.
I’ve played lots of games with Honey that Schade suggested in her book. But we stopped the squirrel game pretty darn fast. I should never have tried that one.
Bad Advice Today?
What brings this topic to my mind? Thunderstorms.
When we’ve had mild thunder, our foster pup Chèrie has done fine. She looked to Honey and me for reassurance and was able to stay calm.
But we had a more severe storm the other day that caused Chèrie to panic. She was trying to squeeze through the six-inch openings in our fence to get away from the noise. We finally found a safe place for her, hiding behind a stack of lumber in the basement. She didn’t come out until an hour after the storm had passed.
Because of the severity of her reaction, Russ, our trainer, suggested I try D.A.P. Dog Appeasing Pheromone Spray (60ml) and a Thundershirt. With severe storms expected throughout the day, we were able to get the DAP spray but both local pet supplies were out of large size Thundershirts. So I followed some instructions online to create one using a t-shirt and some duct tape.
I put Chèrie into one of my t-shirts. I put her walking harness on over top, tied the waist into a knot, and wrapped duct tape around the middle to keep it on.
She doesn’t seem to be bothered by it. I can’t tell if it’s relaxing her or not. I guess we’ll see when the storms come through.
I just hope this isn’t another example of me following bad advice. Or badly executing someone’s good advice.
One Size Never Fits All
Some advice is good for no one. But there are lots of good advice out there that might be great for someone but not so hot for you. Or me.
I’ve met people who struggled for months to crate train their dogs because that’s the common advice. But their dogs hated the crate and panicked at the sight of it.
I guess it all comes back to having common sense and paying attention to the dog.
And, if you’re lucky, the bad advice you take will at least be good for a few funny stories.
Did you ever take dog training advice that seemed like a good idea at the time but just didn’t work for you? Was it disastrous? Or hilarious?
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