Fake Dog News, It’s Everywhere

©Scott Sheaffer, CDBC, CPDT-KA, USA Dog Behavior, LLC

Fake news is something everyone seems to be talking about in politics.  However, there is another kind of fake news that directly impacts dog owners and lovers – fake dog news. It’s everywhere. Unfortunately, in some cases it causes dogs to needlessly suffer.

As a full-time canine behavior professional, I am alarmed and, quite frankly, outraged by the amount of erroneous and unsound dog training “advice” that is on the internet. But let’s not stop at the internet. Inaccurate information can occasionally come from surprising sources: your well-meaning next door neighbor, inexperienced-untrained-uncertified dog trainers, and some otherwise great veterinarians.

Dog training misinformation knows no boundaries when it comes to absurdity. Some of my favorites include:

  • Let’s start with a choice example - “Don’t ever let a dog see you pick up his poop; it will make you subordinate to him.”
  • The legacy of misleading Cesar Millan made-for-TV dog “training” lives on (see Cesar Millan, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly) - “If a dog goes through a door in front of you, it means he’s trying to dominate you.”
  • In what may possibly be the oldest example of bad dog information, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
  • This incorrect advice has caused a lot of dog bites - “A wagging tail means a happy dog.”
  • Many dogs have ended up in shelters, only to be euthanized, because of some variant of the following – “Dogs should have one litter of pups before being spayed.”
  • I think this one is for owners who want to justify why they don’t spend time with their dog – “Dogs love being outside all of the time and get plenty of exercise when they’re out there.”
  • “Putting a dog in a crate is cruel.” While crates can be misused, when used properly, they are great tools and a comfort to your dog.
  • And this one has caused a lot of confusion and suffering for dogs – “My dog is guilty when he does fill-in-the-blank.”

I was motivated to write this article when I ran across the following fake dog news article, 10-Year Old Dog’s Reaction To Being Adopted Is The Best Thing You’ll See All Week! Isn’t it obvious from just the title of this article that you’re about to read fake dog news?

The dog in the accompanying video is at the Soi Dog Foundation which is a legitimate dog rescue in Thailand. But the writer of this article has taken this video and made it into something it is not. We are to believe that this video depicts the dog’s joyous reaction when “…it was time for a volunteer to let him know of the great news [that he was being adopted]!”

I’ve worked with hundreds of rescue dogs; not one of them could even come close to understanding someone telling them that it’s their lucky day because someone from the UK is going to adopt them. The dog in this video is aroused by the play behavior of the volunteer and nothing else. This fake dog news is just silly but isn't really injurious. Sadly, this isn't always the case.

Please, check your sources carefully when searching for information about your dog’s behavior. Seek the help of a qualified dog trainer (CCPDT.org is a good place to start). If your dog is experiencing significant behavior issues, search out and find a qualified and certified dog behaviorist or specialist.