The results from my reader survey are in and the number one request is for more articles on dog training. So, let’s get started! How many of these common dog training mistakes are you making? No worries if you’re guilty of a few of these. I’ve made plenty of mistakes too, just ask Haley! This is a brief list but I’ll be expanding on some of these topics throughout the year.
10 Common Dog Training Mistakes
1. You’re not training consistently.
Training your dog takes a certain level of commitment. We all have busy schedules but putting in the work now will pay off in dividends later when you have a well-behaved dog you can be proud of. Set aside time each day to work on training and find ways to work commands into your daily routine. For example, ask your dog to sit
before getting her meal or going outside. Practice the down command
before she gets a toy.
2. Your rewards aren’t exciting enough.
Make sure you’re using high-value, tasty treats or real food and lots of verbal praise when your dog follows a command. It’s best to train when your dog’s hungry, as they’ll be more enticed and motivated to work for food. Check out these tips if your dog doesn’t work very hard for treats
. If your pooch is motivated by toys and playtime, use those as motivation while training. Use whatever your dog loves!
3. Your dog has too much energy.
If a dog hasn’t been exercised or has pent-up energy, it’s almost impossible for them to stay focused on training. Try working with them after a short walk or play session.
4. Your commands are confusing.
Use short cues or commands and avoid throwing in extra words with the commands. Make sure you (and all family members) use the same command and speak them clearly and with confidence. It’s also important not to repeat commands over and over again, sounding like a broken record. Since dogs are better at reading our body language than interpreting our words, consider associating a hand signal along with certain commands, like pointing to the floor when giving the down
5. You’re not in the right frame of mind when training.
Attitude is everything, right? If you’re tired or irritated when working with your dog, your training session might not be very productive. Training can be frustrating at times, especially when training certain behaviors like loose leash walking
. If it’s not going well, stop and try again later. Dogs are good at sensing our emotions too, so try to make each training session a positive experience for your pup.
6. Your timing is off.
It’s important to anticipate your dog’s next move so you can be ready to reward her as soon as she performs the desired behavior. Dogs associate the reward with what’s happening at the moment or just before receiving a reward. If you’re late in offering the reward, you could be accidentally rewarding the wrong behavior or your dog won’t make the connection with the command. Timing is especially critical if you’re using a clicker to mark a specific behavior. Always end each training session after your dog has achieved some level of success.
7. You’re not using the right tone of voice.
Dogs respond to the excitement and enthusiasm in our voice. Too little excitement or a low, monotone voice might not provoke much enthusiasm back from your dog. On the flip side, too much high-pitched excitement or squealing may cause your dog to lose focus. Shoot for a happy, upbeat tone that’s not too over the top and remember that raising your voice or yelling at your dog is counterproductive. For more tips, read How Our Tone of Voice Affects Dogs
8. You’re moving along too fast.
Once your dog understands a command, that’s just the beginning. Next, you need to reinforce the command by using it in different situations and slowly working around higher levels of distraction. Also, teaching your dog too many different commands at the same time can be confusing to them. Take your time and allow them to build confidence and success with each command.
9. You’re using a one-size-fits-all training method.
I’m a big believer in positive-reinforcement training because it works so well, but it’s also important to consider the specific personality, breed, age, preferences and history of your dog. Every dog is a little bit different and the key to training success is to discover what motivates your dog to learn while maintaining a positive training environment. When I run into a training roadblock, I try to view the situation from Haley’s perspective and frame of mind. I almost always gain some helpful insight to resolve the issue.
10. Your dog doesn’t trust you.
That might be a tough one to accept but it happens sometimes and it’s hard to train a dog when you don’t have their trust and respect. Some people run into this issue after they’ve adopted a dog that’s been abused by a previous owner. If you take the time to establish a relationship of trust with your dog
, training will be much easier.
If you’ve made some of these mistakes, don’t worry, we all have. I’m guilty of not following through with training Haley around distractions and I remember how frustrated I was while trying to teach her not to pull on the leash while walking. That’s a tough one!
Dog training comes easily to some people, they seem to have a rapport with canines and an intuition about their behavior. If you’re not one of those dog owners, don’t worry. You can enroll in an obedience class or hire a trainer to help you at home. If you would rather get your tips from a book, I highly recommend My Smart Puppy by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson. It’s perfect if you’re looking for a simple, straight-forward approach to training your pup and building your training experience and confidence.
I hope these ten tips make your training sessions more productive and pleasant for both you and your dog. Have you made any training mistakes? Share your tips and lessons learned in the comment section below!