Sometimes it can be difficult to decipher your dog’s actions since he can’t tell you what he’s thinking. That’s why there are a lot of misconceptions about dog behavior. Here are five common myths about why your dog does the things he does and the truths behind them:

Myth #1: If a dog wags his tail, he’s happy.

One of the most common myths is that dogs only wag their tails when they’re happy. In reality, dogs wag their tails for a variety of reasons, even out of fear or anxiety. That’s why it’s important to notice other aspects of your dog’s body language when trying to determine his mood, like whether his ears are relaxed or he’s making eye contact.

Not sure whether your dog’s wagging tail means he’s happy? Recent research suggests that left or right tail wags elicit different emotional responses from dogs. Dogs will wag their tails to the right when they see something positive (like their owner) and to the left when they see something negative (like another aggressive dog).

Myth #2: Puppies will grow out of bad behavior.

It may be easy to blame your puppy’s bad behavior on his age, but if you don’t start addressing your puppy’s bad habits, he could grow into an adult who doesn’t know any better. Puppies are very adaptable, and it’s easier for them to learn new, appropriate behaviors when they’re young. 

Myth #3: Dogs misbehave out of spite.

If you come home from work to find your favorite pair of shoes destroyed, it may be easy to think your dog is punishing you for being away or simply just being spiteful. But dogs aren’t capable of acting out of spite or revenge. If your dog is destructive while you’re away, he’s probably just anxious or bored. Try providing him with a fun activity to keep him entertained, like a puzzle feeder.

Myth #4: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Who says older dogs can’t learn new things? Adult and senior dogs can learn all kinds of new tricks and behaviors, and older dogs tend to have a longer attention span than puppies. As your dog gets older, training can be a great way to keep his mind and body active. To know more about training your dog, check out our training tips for dogs of all ages.

Myth #5: All dogs and cats dislike each other.

The reality is that most dogs and cats can grow to be very close — or at least tolerant of each other. If you want your dog and cat to get along, it’s important to supervise them when they first meet and in the beginning stages of them getting to know each other. Also, be sure to give each pet his or her own space, where he or she can eat, sleep, and do his or her business without interruption. Learn more about introducing your dog to your cat and other pets.

Have more questions about why your dog does the things that he does? Learn more about dog behavior at Purina.com.