While there are many viewpoints on dog training, pet owners make some common mistakes, whichever training technique they use. When training your pup to learn new skills, avoid the following 10 common mistakes.
#1: You are inconsistent when teaching your pet acceptable behaviors
Consistency is key when teaching your pet new behaviors. If your dog is confused about the appropriate behavior, you are too inconsistent with your training. For example, you are teaching your dog that she is not allowed on the couch, but you give in late at night when everyone else is in bed and you can’t resist a puppy cuddle. Then, the next time she tries to jump onto the couch, you scold her and push her down. Dogs cannot learn acceptable behavior when the criteria are inconsistent. Decide what you expect from your dog and stick with it.
#2: You assume you need to train your puppy when she’s older
The best time to begin training your dog is the day you bring her home. Whether she’s a puppy or an older dog, lay the foundation for your household expectations on day one. Although snuggling with her in your bed the first night may be tempting, teaching her the following night that she must sleep in her crate will be difficult.
#3: You teach your dog a command and never practice it again
If you learned a skill, such as archery, but laid down your bow for a year without any practice, you’d be pretty terrible the next time you tried. The same holds true for your pet. Practice important commands routinely to ensure she remembers what “wait,” “come,” and “drop it” mean. You don’t want to find out that your dog has forgotten how to come when called if you’re faced with a dangerous situation.
#4: You fail to proof your command with various distractions
While it’s wonderful that your dog has learned to “leave it,” when you drop some of your dinner prep on the kitchen floor, does that command hold up elsewhere? Ensure your dog has rock-solid commands, no matter the situation, by proofing her with distractions and temptations. A simple “sit” in your living room is easier than getting her to sit still at a dog park to leash her, when 10 dogs are running free around her. Practice your pup’s commands in various locations that have different levels of distraction and temptation, to ensure she will always obey.
#5: You use punishment to discipline your pet
No species responds well to physical or verbal punishment. By smacking, swatting, or yelling at your pet when she fails to do what you ask, you destroy her trust and your bond. Use positive reinforcement with treats, praise, and pettings to strengthen your bond and encourage your pet to work with you.
#6: You take too long to reward your pet
When training your dog, you must reward her seconds following the desired behavior, or you may accidentally reward her for a different behavior. This is especially important when you’re beginning to teach your pet a new skill, and trying to link a behavior with a cue. Many trainers use a clicker or a marker word, such as “yes,” to immediately signal to their pet that she performed correctly.
#7: You inadvertently reward your dog for the wrong behavior
Dogs are social creatures and love attention, whether it’s positive or negative. But, negative attention can inadvertently reward your dog for the wrong behavior. For example, when your dog jumps to greet you and you push her down, you’re rewarding her with your attention and touch. Instead, ask her to sit before petting her and rewarding her with love.
#8: You become frustrated and impatient with your dog
Knowing that communicating with someone who doesn’t speak your language is difficult, be understanding when training your pet. If she can’t grasp what you’re asking, take a step back and end your session on a good note.
#9: You repeat your command multiple times
Many newbie dog trainers make the mistake of repeating themselves before their dog complies with a command, but this teaches the dog that she can stall for four or five command repeats before listening, and still get rewarded. For example, you ask your dog to “sit,” but she’s distracted by an approaching dog. You ask her to sit four or five times, before the other dog turns a corner and disappears. Your dog finally listens and sits, so you reward her—you have taught her that it’s perfectly fine to not listen when you say a command, and she will still receive a treat. Instead, ask your pet to perform a skill only once. If she doesn’t respond, wait a few seconds, take a step forward to regain her attention, and ask again.
#10: Your training sessions are too long or too short
While short training sessions are ideal to prevent frustration and boredom, don’t quit before you make any progress. Always end your session on a good note to encourage your pet to try again next time.
As an animal emergency hospital, we hope not to see your pet for an emergency that proper training could have been prevented, like being hit by a car or eating something toxic. But, if the worst happens, give us a call—we’re here for you and your pet during evenings, weekends, and holidays.