Common Training Mistakes
Every dog needs basic training and socialization. Some need it more than others, but all dogs should have some form of training. Denying your dog some form of training puts them at a disadvantage. How will they know boundaries? Are they being provided adequate structure and guidance? Will they be safe without it? Don’t think of training as a chore; think of it as a fun, challenging, and enriching way you can connect with your dog whilst providing them with the safest, most stable environment as possible.
1. Correction-Based Instead of Positive Reinforcement
Focusing on the negative is not nearly as effective as using positive training methods. This means that you reward your dog for desired behavior which encourages continued positive behavior. Asserting dominance and using punishment can lead to negative behaviors down the road. Mixing negative and positive reinforcement confuses your pet and makes it difficult for them to determine if they’re going to be rewarded or punished. Learn to anticipate your pup’s behavior and reward them accordingly.
2. Relying Too Much on Treats
Treats are great, especially if your pooch is food-motivated, and they are a great way to start. However, relying too much on food sends your dog the message that they can and should only perform when you have food on you, and you aren’t likely to have dog treats on you at all times. Vary rewards with praise, toys, or play. It’s important that your dog can associate your praise and approval as rewards.
3. Training for Too Long
If you train for too long, your pup can become despondent and bored. They can also feel overwhelmed with new information and not retain what they’ve learned. Just like humans, they need a break from mental and physical stimulation. Training sessions should stop once you see positive results and continue at a later time. If it helps, set a timer, and schedule 15 – 30 minute sessions. Training is an ongoing process. Practice makes progress.
4. Familiar Territory
It’s important to train in your home because that is where you and your pooch will spend most of your time. However, do not limit your training to one place. Try training outdoors or at dog parks where they will face new and different challenges. This will help your dog keep their behavior consistent no matter where they are and what’s going on around them.
5. Too Much Clicking
Clicker training can be an effective way of training, if you know how to use it properly. The goal is to have your dog associate the click with a reward, if you stop rewarding your dog the clicker becomes pointless. Stay consistent with only one click per desired behavior; otherwise, they’ll have no idea which behavior you’re rewarding. If you don’t know how to properly execute a training method, research it. This is training process for you as well, and it will take some time to adjust.
6. Not Making Adjustments for your Dog
Your dog is an individual with a unique personality. Not every method or reward system will work for every dog. If a training method isn’t working, don’t get discouraged. It doesn’t mean that your pooch can’t learn, it simply means it’s difficult for them to learn that certain way. Be patient and lenient. Know what motivates your dog. Sometimes all it takes is a different environment or changing how you give commands. Experiment to find what works best for you and your dog.
7. Repeating Commands
Repeating a command over and over can lead to your dog learning stalling behavior and only responding to repeated commands. If your dog doesn’t respond, do not repeat the command. Take them somewhere else and try again. If they still do not respond then it is time to retrain and relearn the behavior.
8. Not Practicing
Your training may be all for nothing if you do not practice. How can your pup remember what they’ve learned if they never practice? Keep up with training well beyond the puppy phase. You should be practicing with your dog for the rest of their life. It strengthens your bond and gives them much needed mental stimulation.
As mentioned before, practice makes progress. Remember that training is a positive form of interaction that enriches and challenges you and your pup. It should start in the puppy phase and continue throughout their life. With a little patience and motivation, you and your pooch can conquer anything!