Nine Common Training Mistakes:

And how to avoid making them!

We all want to do the best we can for our dogs, but there are many common dog training mistakes many people make even with the best of intentions. If you are putting the effort in to train your dog at all that's a huge step towards having a better behaved and happier dog, but it can be hard to know what the right thing to do is in a world that is flooded with so much conflicting and confusing information on dog training. Mistakes happen, that's just part of life. Though some of those mistakes may seem insignificant, you may be surprised to learn how much seemingly small mistakes can slow down your dog's progress. Here are the most common mistakes people make during dog training from award winning dog trainer Angie Barron. Are you guilty of any of these dog training mistakes?

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​1. Waiting too long to start training or not waiting long enough

Puppies are learning all the time whether you’re aware of it or not, which means you are training them all the time whether you are aware of it or not. While puppies are not ready to learn things like sit and down as soon as you bring them home, and you can certainly cause problems asking too much of them too soon, you can and should teach the puppy good habits like encouraging the puppy to chew on items they are allowed to chew on and preventing them from chewing items they are not allowed to chew on, as well as playing with the puppy regularly which fosters a good attitude about working with you as well as building good play habits to make later more formal training much easier.

 

2. Thinking you’re “done” training

Many people finish an obedience course or pick their dog up from a board and train program and make the mistake thinking that the dog is now done training and it’s something they no longer need to worry about. The dog may have learned what you wanted them to learn during this time, but if you do not maintain what they have learned those behaviours will naturally become less reliable over time and may eventually disappear entirely.

Girl Hugging her Dog

3. Taking a one size fits all approach

Just like people, dogs are all individuals with a wide variety of different learning styles. Not all dogs will respond to the same training techniques the same way. What might be a highly effective technique with a border collie may not be effective at all with a greyhound, or even a different border collie! In order for training to be effective you need to be attentive to the needs of your individual dog so you can can train them in a way that works best for them. The best dog trainers have a lot of guidelines they follow when training a dog, but never a lot of rules.

4. Impatience

Dog training takes time. Some dogs take longer to learn than others and some trainers can effectively teach certain dogs more quickly than others, but dog training takes time and you cannot expect instant results. Some training systems and trainers promise fast results, but those results are often short lived and can even evolve into other problems that are worse than the original problem.  How long a dog takes to learn is largely dependent on their breed, their environment, how well their exercise and nutritional needs are being met, and how effective their teacher is. 

5. Giving the dog mixed messages

Say you make a rule that your dog is not allowed to jump on you, but occasionally the dog will jump on you and you give them a pet just because you love them so much and they want you to pet them so badly that you just can’t resist before telling the dog to get down. By petting the dog when it jumped up on you, you have taught the dog that jumping up on you results in them getting attention. They may get down when you ask them to, but the behaviour of jumping up on you in the first place is being reinforced by you even if you only occasionally pet the dog when they jump up on you before asking them to get down, and they will continue to jump on you and others before being asked to get down. In some cases people will sometimes pet the dog for jumping up before asking the dog to get down, and other times they will immediately scold the dog for jumping up because the dog is not allowed to do this. This is extremely confusing for the dog because sometimes they are allowed to jump up and sometimes they get scolded for it and they have no way of telling when they’re allowed to jump and when they’re not.

Boy Walking His Dog

6. Only calling the dog to something unpleasant

Many people only call their dogs to things they don’t enjoy. Dogs get called to come have a bath or get their nails trimmed, or the dog is having fun running around a field and they get called back because playtime is over. It’s rare that people call their dogs to something fun! When you do this, you teach your dog that when you call them it means something they don’t like is about to happen, so naturally your dog is going to try to find ways to avoid coming back to you.

7. Not training the dog in different environments

Dogs are typically not very good at generalizing the information we give them. If you teach your dog to sit while in the kitchen, they understand that “sit means I touch my butt to the ground in the kitchen”. If you then ask them to sit in the backyard, they will act like they don’t know what it means because they actually don’t know what it means! Dogs need to learn that sit means sit in any environment, and you do that by practicing sit with your dog in a lot of different environments. Practice sit in the kitchen, practice sit in the backyard, practice sit in the front yard, practice sit when there’s guests in the house, practice sit while you’re out for a walk with no one around, practice sit while you’re out for a walk with other dogs around, practice sit while you have your dog at the pet store, practice sit while you’re at the vet! The more environments that you practice what you’ve taught your dog in, the better they’re going to listen in any environment!

Man with Dog

8. Repeating commands

A common mistake that many dog owners make is falling into the trap of repeating a command like “Sit” over and over again until the dog does what they’ve asked or they give up. When you regularly repeat a command, you’re actually desensitizing your dog to the meaning of the word. Instead of it being a direct and clear command for your dog to follow, your dog will start to tune it out and ignore you.

Happy Dog

9. Not socializing properly

Many dog owners believe that socializing means letting a young puppy meet as many other dogs and people as possible. Direct interaction with other dogs and people is one form of socialization that is certainly important, but learning to be around other dogs and people without needing to interact with them is also a crucial part of socialization. Puppies that learn to interact with everyone and everything they see turn into dogs that need to interact with everyone and everything they see, and the owner is often left wondering why they have an adult dog that insists on dragging them down the street to interact with everyone and everything they see and can’t just go for a nice walk. Socialization is not just allowing puppies to interact with people, dogs, it’s teaching the puppy how we want them to interact with other dogs and people. Another mistake owners make is that they think that after a few months of socialization, they are done socializing their young puppy. While socialization within the puppy's critical development period is extremely important, you need to maintain your dogs socialization skills throughout the life of your dog, just like any other kind of training! 

 

Taking a group training class with a qualified trainer is a great way to avoid all of these mistakes and more! Elite Sport Dogs in Lethbridge AB offers a variety of different group classes to help both you and your dog happily live together! See our classes tab for more information and try your first week of classes for free! For more free tips, visit the training tips tab!

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