Training a dog is not as easy of a task as it sounds. Although most owners get the basics down successfully, a lot of potential training mistakes can set your dog’s progress back or prohibit it from learning cool new tricks. Unless you’re an expert, training probably doesn’t come naturally to you, and mistakes are normal. However, learning about common training mistakes and finding ways to rectify them will ultimately make training easier and more fun for both you and your pup!
Dangers of training mistakes
For the most part, making mistakes while training your dog isn’t a huge deal. More often than not, the mistakes will only impede progress and cause your dog to learn some commands a little slower than you’d like. For some pet parents, this can be stressful and frustrating, but overall manageable.
Training your dog improperly might also lead to your dog learning some undesirable behaviors. For example, it may learn that it will still be rewarded if you repeat commands many times before it acts. It may even become confused or refuse to respond to a command because of training’s association with negative things like baths or being left alone.
These undesirable behaviors may take a lot of time and effort to reverse and correct, so it’s much better to train your dog properly from the beginning.
Common training mistakes
Of course, the average dog owner is bound to make a mistake or two during training. Here are a few very common mistakes that you should look out for to avoid confusing your dog or stalling its education.
- Inconsistency: One of the most common and frustrating training mistakes pet parents make is being inconsistent with their commands. All too often, inconsistency with training leads to the implementation or continuation of undesirable behaviors because the dog gets confused as to what it’s allowed to do. If you don’t want your dog to go somewhere in the house, such as the couch, be firm about the rule and avoid allowing it to jump up sometimes and not others.
- Repeating cues: Repeating cues, also known as command nagging, is another big mistake pet owners make. When you repeat a command multiple times in a row without your dog performing the desired action, you’re essentially teaching the dog that it doesn’t need to listen to the command the first time and that a repeated command is the actual request. In the future, your dog is unlikely to respond to your first command.
- Training too long: Dogs aren’t able to pay attention to training for long periods of time due to short attention spans, so you don’t want to attempt to train them for longer than 10 minutes or so. Keeping the training sessions short will also help you avoid frustration, especially if your dog isn’t getting it right away.
- Associating cues with negatives: When you’re starting to train your dog with a new command, it’s very important to correlate the command with positive reinforcement. This is what will influence your dog to come to you again and again. If you “poison” a cue by training your dog to come, only to place it in an undesirable situation, such as a bath, it might start to resist the commands in the future out of fear or wariness of the outcome.
- Harsh discipline: Using harsh discipline when training your dog is a big mistake that dog owners should never partake in. Punishments like yelling have been shown to not lead to positive behaviors. More often than not, punishing your dog during training will lead to fear or anxiety, as well as aggressive behavior from the dog—all of which are harmful to you and your dog’s relationship, not to mention training progress.
How to solve training problems
If you are having little luck while training your dog, or you’ve discovered that some of these training mistakes are present in your current methods, you’ll want to reevaluate and start anew. Do some more research on dog training and try new ways to bond with your dog while helping it learn and grow.
Enlisting the help of a professional dog trainer is another great way to improve training outcomes. Professionals are trained and experienced, so they can not only help your dog learn new things and reverse or correct any undesirable behaviors your dog may have picked up, but they can also help introduce you to the tools you need to continue your dog’s progress.
Regular practice with your dog at home while using the proper techniques will ultimately lead to your dog’s continued success in following commands and becoming more skilled at learning new things.