These are the most common mistakes people make during dog training. You’ll be surprised at the impact these little, and seemingly insignificant actions can have on your dog’s behavior.
Not Paying Attention
It’s the easiest thing: just shift your attention elsewhere for a little while, and suddenly your puppy is off doing unspeakable things to your living room furniture. And you can not correct him unless you catch him in the act. Puppies have an extremely short memory: five minutes ago no longer exists and they will not connect any action you take to something they did minutes ago. When you can not pay attention to your puppy, he should then be in a safe place, like his dog crate, or tethered to you.
Putting Things Off For Too Long
This is so easy to do. You look at your little puppy, and think “he doesn’t need to learn that just yet”. “That” could be anything: walking on a leash, stay, coming when you call … especially when a puppy’s natural inclination is to stay by your side anyway, without any inducements. But if you let it go too long, you’re suddenly staring dog-adolescence in the face and he won’t want to cooperate anymore. Training while young is the most effective way to get the basics into your dog’s head for good.
Failing to Reward Your Dog For Good Behavior
Your dog won’t know he has done something right, unless you tell him in a language he can understand: happy praise, or obvious reward. Rewards don’t necessarily have to be tangible goods like treats, but your dog will need to connect the reward to his action in order for him to get the message. Immediate praise is the best reward you can give. It’s instant gratification for your dog, and gives you a few seconds to produce the tangible reward if you have one. That few seconds will bridge the gap between “Yay, I did it right!” and “Wow, what did I do to deserve this?” Thi is especially important during early training when you are trying to get your dog to connect actions to commands.
It’s such a little thing, but it yields huge results. Constantly consistent responses are essential to dog training on every level. Deviate even just once from the usual, and you will have undone all that you have done before.
Begging is one of the best examples of this mistake that I can give. A dog that has never received food from it’s people when they are eating, will not continue to beg. He might try it once or twice early on in your relationship, but consistent “no”s and “go lay down” commands will discourage him quickly.
But if you, just once, give in and give him a chunk of whatever you are eating, he’ll know that it worked. And what works once, will eventually work again, even weeks later. Now you’re in for a battle of wills.
Calling Your Dog For Punishment
Let’s put aside the issues that I have with “punishment” to begin with, and just focus on why it’s bad to call your dog to your dog to your side in order to get mad at him.
Nobody wants to go to a person when they know they are going to get in trouble. It’s true of adults, children, and especially dogs. People know you’re not likely to forget your anger, but a dog is ever hopeful, and will diligently avoid you if he knows you’re mad. And every time you call him to you in order to do something unpleasant, you are punishing him for returning to you, and it just cements it in his head that he doesn’t want to go back to your side.
If your dog is in trouble, or you have to do something he won’t like, go and get him, instead of calling him.
Rewarding The Wrong Behavior
It happens to all of us, and it’s the most common mistake made in dog training. You may not even think of it as “rewarding” your dog. You may see it as “comforting him when he’s frightened”, or letting him in when he barks, or even giving him a stern talking to when he misbehaves. Attention of any kind when a dog misbehaves is a signal to the dog: “hey, this works. It’s not quite I want, but it’s still attention.” Even negative attention is better than none at all.