Downeast Dog News

Unreasonable Expectations and Misleading Advertising

By Don Hanson, ACCBC, BFRAP, CDBC, CPDT-KA | Jun 01, 2018
Photo by: Debra Bell

When we bring a new dog into our home, things do not always work out the way we want. I find that there are two common reasons this occurs; we have unreasonable expectations, or we have been misled.

Unreasonable Expectations

We often create unreasonable expectations for a new dog in our life based on memories of previous dogs. Perhaps we remember the dog we had as a child. You know, the dog mom raised. If you asked your mom her true feelings about that dog, she might not recall raising him as being “easy peasy.”

Alternatively, perhaps our expectations are based on memories of our last dog. The dog who was sixteen and slept most of the time. While it is nice to remember the best of times, it can be helpful to recall that the sleepy sixteen-year-old was a hellion at 16 months of age.

For some reason, many people expect a dog to live in our world with little or no training or to master everything he needs to know in just a few weeks. Patience seems to be a virtue sorely lacking in this day and age and one that every dog deserves.

Sometimes it is not us that creates the unreasonable expectations but others with something to gain.

Misleading Advertising

Those trying to sell us a dog sometimes may portray a dog more favorably to make a sale. I have had more than one client tell me that their breeder said: “This breed is always calm and easy to train.” Alternatively, the client with a shelter or rescue dog that exclaims “The people at the rescue said she knows how to sit and heel. She doesn’t do any of that!”

Publishers like book titles that sell books. A title like “Seven Days to the Perfect Dog” may sell books, but it is blatantly deceptive and plays right into people’s unrealistic expectations.

Advertising that any dog can be reliable off-leash anytime and anywhere also seems to be in vogue. Those in pursuit of the dream of complete control over his dog and a life off-leash may turn a blind eye to the tools and methods that will be used because he wants that perfect dog so badly. Other times they wish the best for his dog, and someone takes advantage of their naiveté. I recently had a client with a puppy that had been convinced that an underground fence system would keep her dog safely in her yard. When I explained that these “fences” worked by giving the dog an electric shock, she was aghast. Unfortunately, that piece of information had never been disclosed by the salesperson. She had been told that the dog would only feel a “vibration,” “tap,” or “stim”, nice sounding slang for “electric shock.”

As I have noted in previous columns, experts in animal behavior such as The Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) have explicit principles and guidelines that state that aversives such as shock, choke, and prong collars, as well as other devices designed to cause pain, MUST NEVER BE USED. They have taken this position because these devices frequently cause aggression and other behavior problems and are NEVER necessary.

Why anyone would recommend pain to train a dog makes no logical sense. Please be realistic in what you expect of your dog, be wary of things that sound too good to be true, ask lots of questions, and most importantly, be kind. If you need help, seek advice from a pet care professional who is committed to No Pain, No Force, and No Fear. Your dog will thank you.



Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( in Bangor where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He also produces and co- hosts The Woof Meow Show heard on AM620 -WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at Don also writes about pets at his blog: He is committed to pet care and pet training that is free of pain, force, and fear. The opinions in this column are those of Don Hanson.