If you scour the Internet, you will get bombarded with information about how you can and should train your dog. You can start the training process with simple commands like sit, stay, come and go to the more advanced ones like agility training courses, etc. However, there are many mistakes that dog guardians and dog trainers commit during the training process. Most of these mistakes occur unintentionally and are very common. However, these missteps can have a huge impact on whether your dog training efforts are successful or are going to waste. I have compiled the most common dog training mistakes that most dog guardians and trainers commit in this article. Avoiding the following mistakes will make training your dog extremely easy.
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Common dog training mistakes most dog guardians commit
Waiting for the dog to become an adult before starting training
This is the most common mistake most guardians commit in dog training. The training process should start the moment your dog enters your home. However, most guardians prefer to wait till the dog is an adult to start dog training. By the time the dog reaches adulthood, bad behavior and habits have already got ingrained in the dog’s mind. It is very hard to alter the behavior and remove the bad habits once a dog is an adult. Therefore, the training process should start right at the puppyhood stages.
This does not mean that you train your young puppy in advanced dog training procedures. However, you can work with your puppy and teach him the basic commands like sit, lay down, come, stay, etc. You should also work on the house-training process and leash walking. It is advisable to start training early because the sooner you start the training process, the quicker the bond with your dog deepens. The dog training process allows you to understand your dog and vice versa. Your dog learns your body language while you learn your dog’s body language. Mix the training sessions with fun, games, and lots of treats. Once your dog becomes older or reaches adulthood stages, you can proceed with advanced training like animal-assisted therapy, agility training, etc.
Not providing enough training.
If you think that you will train your dog once for a specific command and your dog will remember it for the rest of his life, you are wrong. Dog training is something that must be done regularly. You cannot expect your dog to be trained one day and remember the command a week or a month down the line. Even if your dog has mastered the response to a command or a cue, regular practice sessions in dog training are necessary to help the dog retain the command. If you train your dog for seven days straight and stop training for a month, you cannot expect the pup to remember the command.
Therefore, you must train your dog every day. If you do not have anything new to teach your dog, revise the commands that you have already taught the pup. This will help your dog respond faster.
When training, focus on one command or cue at a time. Do not try to teach your dog more than one trick at once. Make sure you revise the commands that your dog already knows so that the chances of your dog forgetting the old commands while learning the new ones reduces.
Training never ends. Even if you have a senior dog, you should continue the training process. Continued training will also keep your dog’s mind sharp and prevent the onset of dementia. Therefore, do not take dog training lightly.
Going for the same training style for all dogs
We all have committed this mistake at one point or the other. Most often, we think if something is good for one person, it will be good for the other person. The same mistake carries over to dog training too. If one dog was trained by a certain method, people assume that the method will work well even on other dogs. However, dogs have varied personalities, just like ours. No two dog has the same personality. Some dogs are dominant. Others are submissive. Some may be high-energy. Others may be laid back, etc. T
It is crucial to understand the dog’s behavior and persona before the training process is even started. Most often, the training process will have to be custom-tailored to suit the dog’s needs. If you are planning to send your dog to puppy school, do not settle for the first one you see. Scour a few puppy schools, and then decide where you want to send your pup. If your pup cannot learn or catch on to the training being provided in the school, do not be afraid to change schools. Be it puppy school or dog daycare, find the one that is best suited for your kid.
Not practicing between the training sessions.
Practice makes perfect. The more you practice the commands with your dog, the faster he will respond. If you are attending puppy school once a week, it is your responsibility to practice the command with your pup during the week. This way, your pup is ready to grasp the next command in the next week’s session. When you design your puppy care schedule, ensure that you have kept enough time for the dog training sessions. Do not train your dog at a stretch. Train him for short periods. Since puppies have a short attention span, a long training period is not good. You will have maximum success if you train your puppy for 5 to 10 minutes.
Training your dog when you are frustrated
Never train your dog if you are not feeling up to it or in a bad mood. Several dog guardians feel that they must train their dogs irrespective of their own moods. However, your dog can sense your mood. Your dog will pick up on it and start feeling anxious if you are anxious. Thus, he will not pay attention to training. Only train your dog will you feel happy or calm. Never train your dog if you are feeling sad or angry, anxious, etc. Your dog will pick up on your behavior and will feel distracted. Thus, you will spend more time trying to train your dog but not getting anywhere.
Inconsistency in the training procedure
One of the most common mistakes in the dog training process that most guardians make is changing the rules. If you have decided that your dog is not allowed at a certain place, you must remember that. Not only you but all your family members must also enforce the rule. Being consistent is crucial in dog training. The inconsistency of the guardian causes confusion in the mind of the dog. You may also land up reinforcing negative behavior on your dog.
Suppose your dog is not allowed to get up on the couch. However, one day, your dog looks super adorable, and you allow him on the couch. Next time you ban your dog from climbing on the couch, your dog will feel confused. If you shout or get mad at your dog for being on the couch, he will not understand why he is being punished for acceptable behavior. Whatever be your reason for allowing your dog on the couch, in your dog’s mind, he is allowed on the couch.
Food begging is another problem that most guardians promote by mistake. Not all human foods are good for dogs. Therefore, you must train your dog not to beg for food. If your dog was never allowed to eat table scraps as a puppy, your dog would not develop the begging habit. Initially, your dog will try to get food or table scraps. However, if you curb the behavior early, it will not progress further.
Now, let’s look at another scenario. You have some guests over at your place. Your dog decided to sit next to one of the guests. The said guest gives your dog a piece of food from the table. Now your dog associates sitting next to people with getting food from the table. As a result, your dog will likely repeat this behavior and get back into the bad habit of begging for table scraps.
A solution to this problem? When you have guests over, tell your guests how they are to behave with the dog during dinner time.
This is one of the biggest mistakes most dog guardians and trainers commit during dog training. Even though everyone knows that dog training takes a lot of time and patience from the guardian or the trainer, they still tend to forget this key point during dog training. If the dog is not catching on to the command quickly, its trainer or guardian becomes frustrated. When you become stressed, the dog senses it, and the dog mimics your behavior. This is not an OK behavior in dog training.
If your dog is struggling to learn a new command, you need to look into the matter further. Ask yourself questions like:
- Is this a good time to train?
- Is the dog tired?
- Has he been exercising or training for too long?
- Are there things in the immediate environment that are distracting the dog?
If your answer to any of the above questions is yes, then you need to stop the training and start again later at a let’s distracting location. Ensure that you do not train your dog for more than 15 minutes at a time. End the training session on a positive note. If you’re finding it difficult to teach one complete command, you can also break the command down into pieces. Train your dog one aspect of the command at a time. This way, it will not be exhausting for you or your dog.
This is possibly the most common dog training problem I have noticed. Suppose you ask your dog to sit. However, your dog does not listen to the command. You repeat the command on a loop, asking your dog to sit four to five times. After the fifth time, your dog sits. When your dog sits, you reward the behavior with a treat. Now, your dog thinks it is OK to sit after repeating the command five times. Therefore, the next time, your dog will not sit unless you have repeated the command several times in a row.
The bottom line is that you have taught your dog not to respond to the command immediately. Whether training your dog or asking your pup to follow commands, the command should be said only once. If you notice that your dog is distracted and is not listening to you, focus your dog’s attention on yourself first and then use the cue. Even during the training sessions, your dog must respond to the cue at once. You should not have to repeat the queue multiple times to get your dog’s attention. Thus, before giving any commands to your dog, make sure that he is not distracted and that his attention is focused on you.
Cue poisoning is something that most dog guardians deal with during their initial dog training days. Suppose you have taught your dog the command ‘come.’ You ask the dog to come. The dog follows you. However, you use the command to bathe your dog. You ask your dog to follow you to the bathroom, and the dog gets a bath. The dog will start associating the command ‘come’ with a negative experience like getting a bath.
The next time you use the command ‘come’, your dog will anticipate a negative experience and will not follow the command. Therefore, it is your responsibility as a dog guardian to ensure that the cue does not get poisoned. Commands should be used with positive actions that your dog likes. Do not use commands with negative behavior, or your dog will stop responding eventually.
Reinforcing the undesired behavior
This is most often an accidental mistake in the dog training process. The guardians reinforce the negative behavior that they do not want their dog to engage in. For example: giving your dog attention when he is barking at you, encouraging jumping behavior, etc. These behavior styles may seem super cute when your dog is in the puppyhood stages.
When your dog becomes a full-grown adult, jumping on the guest, sofa or bed will not seem so endearing. Your dog may learn to greet others on the road by jumping on them. This is just your dog greeting others on the way. However, other people may not see it this way. Therefore, proper behavior needs to be reinforced from the puppyhood stages itself.
How to resolve such behavior?
If your dog is jumping on you, do not give him any attention. Allow your dog to calm down completely. Then, give him a treat and encourage the behavior. Eventually, your dog will understand that jumping does not get him anything. Instead, if he sits calmly, he is more likely to get what he wants. Similarly, if your dog barks to get attention, do not pay any attention to your dog. Once he stops barking and is calm for two to three seconds, you can shower your dog with attention and treats. This will help curb the excessive barking behavior of your dog.
In certain cases, ignoring the undesired behavior may not be a solution. For example, suppose your dog is chewing on the furniture or rummaging through the garbage can. In that case, you do not have the option to ignore the behavior. Therefore, under such conditions, you should say ‘no.’ The word ‘no’ should be stern but spoken in a low volume. Do not shout ‘no’ at your dog. Once you have said ‘no,’ redirect your dog’s attention to something else like training exercises or give him a toy to play with. Eventually, your dog will understand that the command ‘no’ means he has to stop what he is doing.
Not proofing behaviors
Suppose you taught your dog to sit in the living room. Now, your dog knows that sitting indicates that he has to put his bottom down when in the living room. Your dog may not understand that sitting means putting the bottom down on the ground anywhere he is, irrespective of which room that is. Therefore, when you start to train your dog in any command, make sure that the command is practiced in all of the rooms of your house, in the backyard, and even on the roads.
This does not mean that every dog will have to be trained in commands in every setting. Some dogs are better at generalizing compared to others. However, in most cases, after you have taught your dog a command in a specific section of the house, make sure to follow through with the command in every room and the other places where your dog regularly visits. The training should start in the room which offers the least distraction. Eventually, you should move on to the different locations of the house. With every session, you can increase the distraction level so that your dog is able to focus on you with all the distractions around. This will help fine-tune the cue response in your dog’s brain.
Incorrect timing of the praise or reward
Suppose you are teaching your dog to sit. Even before the bottom touches the ground, you praise your dog for the good behavior and offer him a treat. What does this tell your dog? This tells your dog that he will get the treat even before putting his bum on the ground. Therefore, next time, your dog may not be inclined to sit all the way through. He may just sit halfway and expect to get the treat. Thus, wait till your dog sits all the way before you praise the behavior and reward your dog.
An alternate scenario would be that your dog has put his butt on the ground. However, the treats or praises are nowhere in sight. A few seconds after the dog has sat down, the praises come, followed by treats. In the span of those few seconds, the dog has forgotten why he is being praised and offered treats. Therefore, timing is crucial in dog training. You cannot train your dog properly if the timing of your praise and offering of treats is incorrect. When your dog’s butt touches the ground, you must immediately praise the dog and offer a treat. If you are teaching your dog the command, leave it, you must reward your dog the moment he diverts his attention from the treat that is placed on the ground. The perfect timing of your praise will teach your dog exactly what behavior is required of him.
Incorrect timing of correction
Timing is crucial, whether you are training your dog to follow a new command or whether you are trying to distract your dog from something. If your dog engages in undesired behavior, you say ‘no’ and distract your dog. However, if the timing of the ‘no’ is improper, your dog may not understand why you are saying ‘no’ to him. Make sure that you say ‘no’ the moment your dog starts to engage in negative behavior, not after the negative behavior is completely over. The moment you see your dog peeking into the garbage can, say ‘no.’ The moment your dog leaves the garbage and looks at you, immediately reward the behavior and distract your dog.
Harsh modes of discipline
Nowadays, you will meet dog trainers who will most often say that harsh modes of discipline is not the correct way to train a dog. If you punish your dog for bad behavior or for not following commands, it will not only scare your dog. It will also have a huge impact on your relationship and your dog. Dogs do not understand punishment. They understand fear.
If you punish your dog for a mistake or for not paying enough attention during the training process, your dog will not understand why he is being punished in the first place. Instead, he learns to associate you with negative experiences like yelling, beating, scolding, etc. Therefore, punishing your dog will never give you a positive result. Some other examples of harsh discipline methods are yelling, hitting the dog with a newspaper, staring down at your dog, grabbing your dog by the scruff of the neck, jerking the leash, using shock collars, etc. These actions can have several consequences like:
- Your dog becomes fearful of you, as I already mentioned.
- The dog becomes aggressive towards you.
- Your dog becomes aggressive in general. This can put not only you but also others in harm’s way.
- Your dog becomes ultra-submissive and fearful.
- Your dog can get physically hurt.
The pack leader concept introduced a while back by the dog trainers is obsolete. The best way to train your dog or any dog is by gaining his respect. If the dog respects you, he will follow your commands, no matter what. Your dog follows your commands because he loves and respects you, not because he’s scared and afraid. Training deepens the bond you have with your dog, not make your dog scared of you.
Ultra-long training sessions
Most often, responsible guardians will prepare a schedule that will contain their dog’s feeding times, training time, walking duration, etc. There will be one section about training duration as well. When training, the dog may lose interest, start to feel distracted, or simply get bored of the training. However, dog guardians fail to realize when they allow the training session to go for a prolonged time.
Before you designate a specific training duration, check your dog’s attention span. If your dog is a puppy, the attention span will only be a few minutes. Therefore, you should keep their training duration to 5 to 10 minutes for puppies. You can keep the training duration to 15 to 30 minutes for older dogs. However, your dog may start to feel bored or tired after 15 minutes. If this is the case, you can reduce the training duration and add another training session later in the day. Alternatively, you can add a quick game time in between the training session to allow your dog to release some pent-up energy and get back into the training.
Heavy reliance on treats
A common misconception among dog guardians is that their dogs will not listen to them if they don’t have a treat in hand. Once the dog has learned to associate a specific command with the presence of a treat, he will follow the instruction. The next phase in the dog training process is to wean the dog off the treat. The dog should listen to your command even if you do not have a treat in hand.
To wean your dog off the treats, you should focus on an intermittent reward system. In this, you will reward your dog sometimes for following the instruction but not every time. The intermittent rewarding method will allow your dog to be alert and follow your commands in the hopes of getting a treat. Eventually, as the dog develops muscle memory, you can stop giving your dog treats when your dog follows the command. Instead, you can replace the treat with praises.
Using low-quality treats during training sessions.
This is another extremely common mistake that most dog guardians commit during dog training. They will use treats from good dog food brands. However, they will not judge their dog’s reaction to the treat. As I have mentioned before, every dog is different. If one dog likes a certain brand of treat, it is not necessary that every dog will like the same brand or treat or the same flavor. Therefore, you must use your dog’s favorite food as a treat during dog training. If you use a treat that your dog does not like, your dog will not follow through with your command. This will not only make the training process long and hard, but it will also make your dog impatient and distracted because the treat does not entice him enough.
Only using praises to train the dog.
Dogs do understand human behavior. However, this does not mean that your dog will follow your instruction every time only to get a treat. When you are in the initial phases of training your dog for a specific command, you must rely on treats to attain a successful training procedure. Suppose you are training your puppy to sit, and you say, ‘good boy’ when your dog follows the command. However, the ‘good boy’ is not accompanied by a treat. Eventually, your dog will stop responding to your commands completely because he is not getting anything in return.
When conducting dog training, there should be something in training for the dog as well. This will not only keep your dog motivated, but it will also help deepen your relationship with your dog. Therefore, have high-quality treats with you when you start to train your dog.
Not understanding anxiety and fear signals.
If you are employing a dog trainer to help train your dog or training your dog yourself, you need to understand the signs of fear and anxiety amongst dogs. If the tail tucked in between the legs or the dog is cowering away, it is a sign that the dog is scared. The ears are pinned back and the dog is showing his teeth. This indicates that the dog is feeling scared and is likely to react aggressively.
If your dog displays such behavior towards a trainer, the trainer must have used a negative reinforcement method during training. Alternatively, your dog may have started to associate the trainer with negative experiences. You need to talk to the trainer and find out what may have caused such behavior from your dog. You can also hire another trainer. This is why it is crucial to watch your dog even when a trainer is training them.
If your dog is showing signs of fear towards you during training, you need to conduct a self-check.
- Are you using any of the negative reinforcement methods for training?
- Did you hit your dog anytime?
- You yelled at your dog during training?
- Did you grab your dog by the scruff or pull him by the leash?
- Or did you do anything else that your dog generally does not like?
Stop the training process if your dog suddenly starts to show that he’s afraid. Give your dog some time to unwind and play. You can train your dog later in the day when your dog is feeling better.
A dog may suddenly become afraid because fireworks or thunderstorms are going on. Under such conditions, you should take your dog inside and comfort him instead of continuing with the training.
A third reason why your dog may suddenly become scared is if your dog suffers from separation anxiety. Suppose there is any indication that you may leave the side of your dog. In that case, your dog may become afraid, start howling, excessive barking, whining, etc. If this is the case, you need to work with a certified dog behaviorist on the counter conditioning and desensitization process for the treatment of separation anxiety.
As I’ve mentioned before, your dog can easily pick up on your physical and emotional cues. If you are feeling anxious or lack confidence, your dog will pick up on that and will start to behave accordingly. This is often a problem with new dog guardians who are training for the first time.
This does not mean that you have to show an alpha-like behavior. You need not dominate or exert authority over your dog. You only have to show yourself as someone who knows what they want from the dog. Thus, work on yourself before you start working on your dog. If you suffer from anxiety, you need to address it before you start the dog training process. During training, your dog should look up to you and follow you, not act as an emotional support animal.
Not being reactive
Some guardians only focus on correcting the negative behavior when it occurs. They do not bother about reducing the chance of negative behavior occurring in the first place. What if you take away the opportunity for the negative behavior to occur? Then, you will have to spend less time correcting your dog’s behavior. It will also help reduce the trigger of the bad behavior.
For example, if your dog has chewed up your shoes previously, keep the shoes in a locked cover or keep them away from where your pup can reach. Alternatively, you can keep your dog out of the room where the shoes are. This will reduce the chewing trigger while you work with your dog, teach him more commands, train him to behave well, etc.
This way, when your dog comes across shoes (after training), you can say, ‘leave it’ to show your dog that he is not allowed to chew the shoe. Removing the trigger during the training process helps the training go much more smoothly.
Not bothering with the distractions.
This is a common dog training mistake that both guardians and dog trainers commit. Most people believe that once they have trained their dog in a specific command, the dog will always follow the command, irrespective of the location.
Suppose you have trained your dog to sit. The training for SIT was done in the living room of your house. Now, you take your dog to the dog park and ask your dog to sit. Your dog does not follow the command. You feel confused. Why is your dog not following your command when he was doing so well at home? The reason behind this is that dog parks present a lot of distractions. There are squirrels, other dogs, and people around your dog. There are many new sights, smells, and adventures that your dog would like to go on. Therefore, your dog may not focus his attention on you or the command. You must consider the distractions around your dogs during the dog training process.
It is advisable to start training your dog at a location with the least amount of distraction available. Once your dog has aced the command in a quiet place, take your dog to a location where there will be some, but not many distractions, like your backyard. Once your dog has aced the command in your backyard, take him to the front porch of your house. Following this, you can expect your dog to follow your commands in the dog parks and other public places. Once your dog has aced the command in all locations, you can successfully say that your dog is trained in that specific command.
Not opting for help when needed.
Are you struggling to train your dog? Trust me; you are not alone in this! Many dog guardians struggle with training their dogs. In other cases, people do not have enough time to train their pups. Alternatively, your dog may be facing behavioral issues or separation anxiety. If you are struggling with any of the points mentioned above, you need the help of a dog trainer.
Most guardians feel that it is a hit to their self-esteem if they take their dog to a trainer or employ a trainer for the behavioral issue that the pup is facing. As a guardian, the needs of your dog come first. If your dog needs help, get it before it’s too late.
Go to the vet, then trainer
If you notice abnormal behavior from your dog, the first place you should go to is a vet. Your dog may be having medical issues that are causing him to act out or behave aggressively. Once you have ruled out any health conditions, you should hire a dog trainer or a certified dog behaviorist who has previously dealt with the specific behavioral issue. You need a dog trainer to help make your dog behave better and have better overall health. You will also know where you might be going wrong in the training process.
If you do not want the trainer to train your dog, you can take tips and tricks from the trainer and train your dog yourself. However, do not ignore or put off this step. If you need help, get help.
Have you committed any of the mistakes mentioned above during dog training? If yes, what are they? Have you ever employed the help of a dog trainer to help train your dog? How did the trainer help your pup?
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Understand your dog to be the best guardian
Dog training is not an easy task. Dogs are toddlers who never grow up. You must also be mindful that what you teach your dog today may be forgotten within a week if the regular practice is not done. Practice is the key to having a well-behaved dog. You must practice the commands you have taught your dog regularly. Once you know that your dog has aced specific command in various settings (living room, yard, front porch, public places, etc.), you can declare that your dog has been trained for a certain command. One primary thing to remember here is that if you need help, you should get it as soon as possible. Practice regularly. However, if you do not feel well, you are under stress or frustrated, do not train your dog.
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