Pet Myths

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Pet Myths

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Don debunked some of those dodgy myths about pet breeds and pet keeping.

Myth: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Fact: Old dogs can be trained and most respond well to modern training methods involving positive reinforcement (rewards). That is how Don trained Roger the Red Setter, a very naughty, ballistic dog. He wasn’t a young dog, but he was able to learn all the basic commands within 12 minutes. Don pointed out that owners can also become set in their ways and, without actually realising it, they encourage bad behaviour in their animals. So don’t blame the dog. Look at your training techniques and if necessary, lift your game.

Myth: Dogs shouldn’t be fed chicken bones.

Fact: Chicken bones are fine for dogs, as long as they are fed raw. Dogs have no trouble at all crunching up raw chicken wings, necks and carcasses. They are well adapted to eating raw bones and they love them. Raw meaty bones are an important part of your dog’s diet, because they exercise their jaws and clean their teeth. Other recreational bones suitable for dogs include brisket bones and lamb flaps from the butcher. However, never feed your dog cooked bones. Cooked bones splinter and are difficult to digest.

Myth: Fish, such as goldfish, only have a 7-second memory, so they never get bored in a bowl.

Fact: Fish have memories and are capable of learning. Holiday resorts often invite guests to ‘fish feeding’ sessions, where wild fish have been trained to congregate at feeding stations at certain times of the day. Goldfish can also be trained to find food in a maze. There has actually been research into the effects of alcohol on goldfish memory, and this was described in a book by William Hartston called The Drunken Goldfish – A Celebration of Irrelevant Research.

Myth: If a horse is lying down, it must be sick or injured. Horses only sleep standing up.

Fact: Although a horse has the ability to rest whilst standing (a system of ligaments and tendons which form a suspensory apparatus exists in each leg), a horse will still spend short periods of time resting whilst lying down. It is only when a horse feels safe from predation it will lie down. Foals are more inclined to lie down, especially fully prone.

Myth: Dalmatians come from Dalmatia in Croatia.

Fact: There are some records of spotted dogs being present in Croatia, but there is no evidence to support the theory that they originated there. There is also historical evidence of spotted dogs in North Africa and Asia.

Myth: Maltese are terriers that originated in Malta.

Fact: The Maltese is not a terrier and it did not originate in Malta. The Maltese is probably descended from a Spitz-type dog, which travelled through trade ports, including Malta, with sailors and merchants. Genetic influence would have been varied and it is highly unlikely that a specific ‘closed’ breeding program would have existed on Malta at this time.

Myth: Pharaoh Hounds are direct descendants of dogs that were present during the days of the Pharaohs (3000BC).

Fact: Pariah-type dogs with large upright ears occupied the desert regions (the ears helped dissipate heat) but were not the product of specialised breeding programs. The Pharaoh Hound is also known as the national dog of Malta.

Myth: White Leghorn chooks are from Italy.

Fact: White Leghorn chooks were named after the port from where they were first shipped, but they didn’t originate there.

Myth: Silver Spangled Hamburgh chooks originated in Germany.

Fact: Although they carry a German name, Hamburghs are thought to have originated in Holland.

Myth: Australian Shepherds were developed in Australia.

Fact: The Australian Shepherd was developed in the USA. It is the result of crosses of several herding breeds introduced into the USA in the 1800s. Contributing breeds probably include the Border Collie, Collie and the Bergers des Pyrenees. America’s Australian Shepherd club was created in 1957, but the breed wasn’t officially recognised in Australia until 1994. The success of the breed as a herding animal prompted the belief that it must have come from Australia, much like the Kelpie and Cattle Dog.

Book mentioned

The Drunken Goldfish – A Celebration of Irrelevant Research by William Hartston. Published by Unwin Hyman Ltd (ISBN 0-04-827158-6). This book is out of print, but you might find a copy in a library, secondhand bookshop or try