While training a dog can be extremely rewarding and fulfilling, it can also be downright difficult and defeating. To help strengthen your relationship with your dog, we’re listing the 10 dog training mistakes we see all the time. If you’re looking into your first dog, prepare yourself and save yourself headaches by learning from the mistakes of others. If you already have a dog, it’s never too late to sharpen your skills and reverse dog training mistakes from the past. Great training will lead to happier people and happier dogs.
10 Dog Training Mistakes
“BUSTER! NO!! BUSTER, I SAID GET BACK HERE! BUSTER! HEY, BUSTER! NO!! (insert string of expletives).”
We’ve all heard dog owners like this, but let’s be honest, we’ve probably all been guilty of command nagging at one point or another. This dog training mistake is exhausting, and it only teaches your dog to ignore you. Once that behavior is learned, it’s hard to break.
So, what can you do instead? The dog is either disobeying, confused, or can’t hear you. If you are sure your dog knows a command, only ask once! If they don’t respond, take your dog to a quiet spot, and ask one more time. If they still disobey, re-teach the command. If you think your dog is simply disobeying, be sure to command in a strong, assertive tone.
2. Too many Treats
Food is obviously one of the greatest positive reinforcement tools for a dog. However, overdoing treats is a dangerous dog training mistake.
As soon as the dog learns a command, begin phasing out treats. Be sure to do it gradually, and don’t phase out on verbal praise, just treats. You can do this by giving a smaller treat, giving treats less frequenting, and/or requiring the dog do more for the treat.
If done correctly, your dog will soon long for your praise and approval, rather than your treats.
3. Using a Shock Collar
We’ve written about this one before. Shock collars aren’t necessary for effective dog training, and they can create more issues than they fix. Bark collars specifically can lead to aggressive behavior, false negative associations, elevated stress, unintentional shock, neck irritation, and much more.
If you want a humane and effective bark shock collar alternative, check out the BarkBlaster. It’s the best anti-barking device on the market.
Read more: 8 Reasons to Ditch the Bark Shock Collar
4. Training Too Hard
While most people don’t train their dogs enough, it’s possible to over-work your dog. Read your dog’s behavior. A dog can lose interest and get exhausted, just like a person. Be very intentional and focused during training time to make the most of the time when you have your dog’s attention.
5. Easy on the Clicker
Particularly for those new to clicker training, a very common dog training mistake is abusing the clicker. You can’t expect your pooch to keep things straight mentally if you click to get the dog’s attention, give a command, and tell the dog no.
The clicker should be used at the exact moment the dog is completing a desired behavior, not after. The click will help the dog identify the specific behavior that you desire. Use a treat and verbal praise to reward your dog after the behavior is complete.
To learn more, read the American Kennel Club’s guide to clicker training.
6. Training in the Same Place
If you always train in the same location, you may find that your dog only completes commands well in that location. The solution is simple. Practice in multiple places if you want your dog to obey your commands in multiple places. If you only want your dog to obey in the kitchen, by all means, just train in the kitchen.
Looking for a dog that’s incredibly easy to train? Read more about the incredibly intelligent Labrador Retriever.
7. Demoting Yourself
Some dogs have more of a tendency toward dominance than others. As the owner, you need to establish yourself as the leader of the pack. If you don’t, most dogs will try to fill that position.
Be calm and assertive. You won’t overcome a dominant dog with unstable behavior. Don’t try to be a mean, bad boss. As the alpha, your dog will thrive off your praise and approval.
To help the dog understand that you’re alpha, put yourself first. You need to eat first. Walk through doors first. Set rules and limitations. As much as possible, require your dog receive permission from you before performing actions.
Want more dog training help for issues like inappropriate digging and barking? READ: 5 Common Dog Training Problems and How To Fix Them
8. Kicking the Crate to the Curb
Dogs are den-dwellers by instinct. Effective crate-training isn’t cruel. It fulfils a dog’s natural desire to find a small, safe, dark spot to live in. When done right, a dog will be very much at peace in his or her crate.
It’s not just great for dogs, owners should love crate training too! It makes house training, travel, and overnight stays with friends or family so much easier.
9. Putting Negative Over Positive
Science has proven that dogs respond more quickly to positive reinforcement training than punishment training. Praise and reward should be given immediately after a dog completes the desired task. Keep it fun, and make sure to wean off of treats as soon as the dog learns a command (see point #2).
Be careful not to inadvertently reinforce negative behavior. For example, if you let your dog out every time he barks at something, you teach your dog that barking out the window is a free ticket outside.
10. Training When in a Bad Mood
If you’re in a bad mood, you’re probably going to make many of the dog training mistakes listed above, and more. If it’s been a rough day, you’re probably better off skipping a training session.
With these mistakes in mind, you’ll be well prepared to avoid these mishaps that can severely hinder training. Don’t expect perfection, or you’ll just end up disappointed. Stay calm, work hard, and commit yourself to excellence in training. Your dog will thank you.
Want to learn more? Read: 5 Common Dog Training Problems and How to Fix Them