The Top 7 Dog Training Mistakes

Dog training doesn't have to be a nightmare. In fact, it should be fun for both you and your pup!

December 3, 2012

Is your dog training strategy confusing your pup?

Recently adopted a new pooch? That puppy love could turn into tough love real quick, especially if your new family member takes a liking to chewing your most expensive shoes and using your living room carpet as a bathroom. But here's what may surprise you: Your party animal pup may be just as stressed out as you!


Kate Perry, author of the new book Training for Both Ends of the Leash, says dog owners are often sending mixed signals when it comes to training the new dog. And once everyone in the family, including the dog, is on the same page the entire crew will be happier.

Avoid these 7 dog training mistakes.

Mistake #1: You turn into a broken record.
"Sit, sit, no sit!" You might think the command will sink into your dog's brain if you repeat it over and over, but it actually has the opposite effect when the dog isn't responding. " This causes the dog to ignore the owner instead," Perry says.

Helpful Hint: Socialize and walk your dog daily. Exposing your pup to people, places, and things every day will help form a well-rounded dog. The time together will also help build a relationship between dog and owner. Just be sure to include positive reinforcement and reward treats when your dog is behaving well.

Mistake #2: You get loud.
Trying to train a dog can be frustrating, but raising your voice will actually confuse your pet and make it freeze up.

Helpful Hint: When you feel yourself getting loud, take a deep breath and instead keep a firm and steady tone. If you find yourself scolding your dog for going to the bathroom in the house, consider taking it to the vet to make sure there's not an underlying medical issue like a urinary tract infection.

Mistake #3: You're confusing.
If your dog jumps up, what do you say? "Down?" "Off?" "Get down?" Using several phrases for the same command really confuses the dog, slowing down the dog training process. Not being consistent with the commands, constantly changing the physical hand gesture with the command, for instance, makes it confusing for the dog to learn. As an example, when asking the dog to sit, either use a pointed finger, or snap your fingers, or hold your fist over the dog's head).

Helpful Hint: Be consistent with the command or hand gesture for each task you want your dog to perform. Make sure everyone in your house—even the kids—stick to the same commands to accelerate learning.

Mistake #4: Your rewards are boring.
If your dog isn't interested in the reward, he or she isn't going to work hard to earn it. "What are you going to be motivated by? $1 or $100?" asks Perry. "It's the same with dogs and their rewards during distractions, whether it be a ball for a Jack Russell or the high-value treat for the eager rescued Rotweiller mix."

Helpful Hint: Choose high-quality, lower-calorie training treats or toys your dog enjoys for rewards. If you're in an environment with a lot of distractions, be extra sure to have a sought-after reward or your dog will be focus attention on everything but you. Perry recommends Ruffikins Muffins treats. They're made of pumpkins and oatmeal and excellent even for dogs with sensitive stomachs.

Mistake #5: You're mismatched.
Picking the wrong type of dog for the owners lifestyle can lead create a constant struggle.

Helpful Hint: Do your homework before you bring a dog into your family. If you're a busy working professional who works long hours or you don't like the outdoors, you should probably stay away from active breeds like border collies and Australian shepherds, unless you're able to hire dog walkers or enroll in doggy daycare.

No matter what type of dog you have be sure to own a four-foot leash with a leash knot for extra grip and either a no-pull harness or head halter, along with a collar and ID tags, suggests Perry.

Mistake #6: You underestimate a change of scenery.
If you train your dog indoors, don't expect him to perform the same tasks as well outside.

Helpful Hint: Be ready to teach the same lesson several times. "Since dogs don't generalize very well, they have to be retaught in each location," Perry says.

Mistake #7: You don't know your dog's age.
A 1-year-old large breed is equivalent to a adolescent teenager, while a 1-year-old small breed is more on the mental level of a young adult, Perry explains. Understand that large breeds mature more slowly than small breeds, so that puppy stage could linger longer than you may have expected.

Helpful Hint: To get the ball rolling on important puppy issues like housetraining, make a log sheet to mark off each outing so you and your family can get in the routine of giving your dog ample puppy bathroom breaks. And be sure to avoid overstimulating your dog if there are kids in the house. Every dog—even a puppy—needs it own spot, be it a dog bed, crate, or gated-off area.

A good way to get children involved with training is to have them help feed their pet and to have the dog sit and stay before offering the food. (Don't leave "free food" out all of the time. It's good to make dogs work for their food.)

Tags: pet care