Breed superstitions are very common in the dog world. You’ve probably heard many variations; certain breeds can only be trained a certain way, specific behaviours are impossible to train in specific breeds, and so on.
The good news is that these superstitions just aren’t true!
While breed stereotypes can be useful as a general guide for making educated guesses about a dog’s personality, each dog is an individual. All living creatures are subject to the laws of behavioural science; they either act to gain more of the things they find reinforcing, or act to avoid the things they find punishing.
The key to successful training is to identify what is rewarding or punishing to YOUR specific dog.
Let’s use the “you can never train a Beagle to walk without pulling on lead” superstition as an example. Assuming you’re working with a stereotypical scent-obsessed Beagle, trying to train leash manners using food rewards will most likely be an exercise in futility. Even harsh and inhumane punishments like choke chains are usually unsuccessful; to the Beagle, getting to the scent is worth the pain.
You COULD overcome this difficulty by upping the intensity of either method; tastier treats or even harsher punishments – OR you could use the Beagle’s love of smelling new things to your advantage.
We can train a scent-obsessed Beagle that if they walk nicely on lead without pulling, then they’ll be rewarded by moving forward and gaining access to the smells. Everybody wins; the Beagle receives the enrichment they need for a happy life, and the owner can walk their dog safely and comfortably.
Whether your dog is a typical example of their breed or not, you should always focus on their individual motivations when attempting to train a behaviour.