1 It’s recommended for both female dogs and cats to be spayed (i.e. “fixed”) before going into heat.
True
Correct! The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) recommends dogs and cats be spayed (or “fixed”) before going into their first heat, which typically occurs around 6 months of age. For female dogs, each heat cycle increases the risk of developing serious medical conditions such as an infection of the uterus or mammary cancer. Spaying does not change the personality of the pet but can reduce the risk of some health problems. The CVMA position statement regarding spaying and neutering cats and dogs can be found here.
False
Actually, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) recommends dogs and cats be spayed (or “fixed”) before going into their first heat, which typically occurs around 6 months of age. For female dogs, each heat cycle increases the risk of developing serious medical conditions such as an infection of the uterus or mammary cancer. Spaying does not change the personality of the pet but can reduce the risk of some health problems. The CVMA position statement regarding spaying and neutering cats and dogs can be found here.
2 Cats and dogs misbehave out of spite.
True
Actually, there are many reasons why an animal might create a mess or misbehave; it is important to understand that they are not acting out against you. Horowitz (2011) has shown that even dogs who have not misbehaved but are scolded will look guilty, sentencing themselves to an undeserved punishment. Understanding the primary reason is important because they may have underlying medical or behavioural problems that are treatable. Seeking professional advice when your animal appears to be misbehaving can be beneficial for both you and your dog. To learn more about choosing a reputable companion-animal behaviourist, go to this page
False
Correct! There are many reasons why an animal might create a mess or behave undesirably; it is important to understand that they are not acting out against you. Horowitz (2011) has shown that even dogs who have not misbehaved but are scolded will look guilty, sentencing themselves to an undeserved punishment. Understanding the primary reason for the behaviour is important because the pet may have underlying medical or behavioural problems that are treatable. Seeking professional advice when your animal appears to be misbehaving can be beneficial for both you and your dog. To learn more about choosing a reputable companion-animal behaviourist, go to this page.
3 Dogs should be exposed to a variety of people, animals, and environments during the first three months of life.
True
Correct! It is very important for puppies to be exposed to a variety of different people, animals, smells, sounds, and environments when they are young. This is called “socialization”. Many companion animal experts and associations, including the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviour (AVSAB), agree that the critical period for socialization is within the first three months of life. However, it can still be successful if done after this period. Socialization is very important to having a well-rounded puppy that is not afraid of humans, other animals, or different environments. Work with your veterinarian to find a way to safely socialize your puppy, as they are susceptible to many illnesses at a young age. For more information, check out our “socialization” page.
False
Actually, it is very important for puppies to be exposed to a variety of different people, animals, smells, sounds, and environments when they are young. This is called “socialization”. Many companion animal experts and associations, including the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviour (AVSAB), agree that the most successful time is within the first three months of life; however, it can still be successful if done after this period. Socialization is very important to having a well-rounded puppy that is not afraid of humans, other animals, or different environments. Work with your veterinarian to find a way to safely socialize your puppy, as they are susceptible to many illnesses at a young age. For more information, check out our “socialization” page.
4 It’s important to gradually introduce new pets to existing pets.
True
Correct! The American Association of Feline Practitioners, the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association, as well as well-known veterinary behaviourists, such as Dr. Bonnie Beaver and Dr. Gary Landsberg, highly recommend introducing pets slowly to minimize the changes of a fight occurring between pets and the amount of stress each pet feels. Stress can cause behavioural as well as medical problems. It is important to try to ensure pets get along because research has found that when new and resident pets do not get along, it can negatively affect an owner’s relationship with both pets.Learn more at our Introducing dogs to pets.
False
Actually, it is important to introduce pets slowly to minimize the chances of a fight occurring between the pets and to minimize the amount of stress each pet feels. Stress can cause behavioural as well as medical problems. It is important to try to ensure pets get along because research has found that when new and resident pets do not get along, it can negatively affect an owner’s relationship with both pets. For helpful tips on introducing pets, check out our Introducing dogs to pets.
5 It’s important that as the owner, I establish myself as ‘alpha,’ or ‘pack leader’.
True
Actually, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviour states that this is a common misconception and highly encourages owners to move away from this idea. Dominance (or being ‘Alpha’) is defined as a relationship between two animals that is created by aggression and submission, to give one individual priority over resources such as food, mates and resting spots. Since access to resources is not a major concern in our relationship with our pets, unwanted behaviour is usually a result of accidentally rewarding these behaviours, not due to your pet behaving dominantly towards you. Dominance-style training can be too excessive for a more submissive dog, making them more insecure and nervous, and can make more confident dogs become more aggressive. More information can be found in the AVSAB’s position statement on the use of the Dominance Theory.
False
Correct! The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviour (AVSAB) states that this is a common misconception and highly encourages owners to move away from this idea. Dominance (or being ‘Alpha’) is defined as a relationship between two animals that is created by aggression and submission, giving one individual priority over resources such as food, mates, and resting spots. Since access to resources is not a major concern in our relationship with our pets, unwanted behaviour is usually a result of accidentally rewarding these behaviours, not due to your pet behaving dominantly towards you. More information can be found in the AVSAB’s position statement on the use of the Dominance Theory.
6 Giving pets a reward is better for training a pet than punishment.
True
Correct! The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviour recommends reinforcing desired behaviours with positive rewards (e.g., giving your pet a treat, praising your pet), removing anything causing or reinforcing inappropriate behaviours, and making changes to environments that may be causing unwanted behaviours. Check out their position statement on approaches to reinforce dog behaviour for more information.
False
Actually, there are many adverse problems that can arise from incorrect punishment, such as fear aggression, inappropriate elimination, and/or destruction of property. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviour recommends reinforcing desired behaviours with positive rewards (e.g., giving your pet a treat, praising your pet). In addition, it is important to remove anything causing or reinforcing inappropriate behaviours, and making changes to environments that may be causing unwanted behaviours. For more information, check out their position statement on approaches to reinforce dog behaviour
7 It costs more than $600 per year to maintain an adult 40 lb dog.
True
Correct! According to the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) fee guidelines, food alone costs over $600 for a 40 lb dog for a year. There are many aspects of pet care to be considered; take a look at our *costs page for an idea of what costs to take into consideration.
False
Actually, according to the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) fee guidelines, food alone costs over $600 for a 40 lb dog for a year. There are many aspects of pet care to be considered; take a look at our *costs page for an idea of what costs to take into consideration.
8 Dogs that are properly trained do not bite people, regardless of what provokes the dog.
True
Actually, Reisner, Shofer, and Nance (2007) found that experts agree that any dog is capable of biting. Since we cannot know what an animal thinks or feels and they may not know our intentions, they may act in self-defense, regardless of a person's size or age. For this and other reasons, it is best not to leave children unattended with dogs. For example, large breed dogs may accidentally knock a child down. In addition, children may not know how to be gentle with pets when unsupervised and may unintentionally provoke aggressive behavior.
False
Correct! Reisner, Shofer, and Nance (2007) found that experts agree that any dog is capable of biting. We cannot know what an animal thinks or feels; likewise, they do not know our intentions and may act in self-defense, regardless of a person's size or age. For this and other reasons, it is best not to leave children unattended with dogs. For example, large breed dogs may accidentally knock a child down. In addition, children may not know how to be gentle with pets when unsupervised and may unintentionally provoke aggressive behaviour.
9 Different breeds have different energy levels, regardless of size.
True
Correct! The amount of exercise a dog needs will depend on its breed, age, and health. Some small-breed dogs need more exercise than some large-breed dogs. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association suggests that at minimum, dogs should receive exercise two to three times a day, for a total of at least one hour. The type of exercise can vary, including walks, playing fetch or other active games, and exercise in a leash-free dog park Giving your dog the proper amount and type of exercise will help them live happy lives.
False
Actually, this is true; it is important to consider the energy level of a dog breed you are considering. The amount of exercise a dog needs will depend on its breed, age, and health. Some small-breed dogs need more exercise than some large-breed dogs. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association suggests that at minimum, dogs should receive exercise two to three times a day, for a total of at least one hour. The type of exercise can vary, including walks, playing fetch or other active games, and exercise in a leash-free dog park Giving your dog the proper amount and type of exercise will help them live happy lives.
10 Behaviour problems in pets can be a result of stressful events and/or changes to the pet's environment.
True
Correct! Landsberg, Hunthausen, and Ackerman (2003) state that changes in behaviour can be the result of stressful events and/or changes to the pet's environment, including changes in your daily routine (e.g., family member going on vacation). Your veterinarian can help you investigate your pet’s behavioural problems in order to rule out any medical problems. It is also very important to know the history leading up to the pet’s behavior changes to help find out what events might have caused it. Finding a good trainer to help may also be the key in treating behaviour problems, check out the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior’s handout on choosing a trainer. Your veterinarian will likely be able to refer you to some reputable trainers as well.
False
Actually, Landsberg, Hunthausen, and Ackerman (2003) state that changes in behaviour can be the result of stressful events and/or changes to the pet's environment, including changes in your daily routine (e.g., family member going on vacation). Your veterinarian can help you investigate your pet’s behavioural problems in order to rule out any medical problems. It is also very important to know the history leading up to the pet’s behavior changes to help find out what events might have caused it. Finding a good trainer to help may also be the key in treating behaviour problems, check out the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior’s handout on choosing a trainer. Your veterinarian will likely be able to refer you to some reputable trainers as well.

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Yin, S. (2011). Kitten Socialization. Retrieved from http://drsophiayin.com/blog/entry/kitten-socialization