6 Common Mistakes You’re Making When Training Your Dog

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One of your most important tasks as a dog owner is to properly train your dog. Despite what many people think, basic dog training is not just about learning where to go potty or responding to commands. Training a dog involves more than just teaching him to sit and stay – you also need to housetrain your dog, socialize him, and make sure that he learns basic obedience. The goal of training is to mold your puppy into a well-behaved, well-balanced, and content pet that will know what is expected of them. As pack animals, dogs benefit from having an authority figure and respond well to structure and rules, so when you know how to properly train your canine friend, the results will be fantastic, even if you’re not a pro. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of misinformation out there about dog training which results in a number of common mistakes that dog owners make while training. 

It’s easy to fall trap to these misconceptions, especially if you don’t have much experience training dogs in the first place. After all, how is anybody supposed to pick out frauds from experts on the Internet? But don’t worry- we’ve got you covered even if this is your first time owning and training a dog. Here is a list of the top six training errors that dog owners make so you can learn to avoid those mistakes or correct how you’ve been training.

Many dog owners make the mistake of using punishment as a training method. And we’re not talking about aggressive or abusive training methods such as yelling or beating. There are other aversive methods that have an equally detrimental effect but are, for some reason, widely accepted as proper training methods. One of the most common examples is rubbing a dog’s nose in his mess if he has an accident in the house. It’s likely that if you haven’t ever done this that you’ve heard of someone saying it’s a foolproof method of potty training puppies. Wrong!

These dog owners mistakenly believe that rubbing the dog’s nose in it will teach him what he is being punished for but, in reality, it just confuses (and might even scare) your dog. Using aversive methods such as this one can also ruin your relationship with your pet, as they can end up fearing you instead of feeling like you’re their pack leader. Positive-reinforcement training – methods that involve rewarding your dog for good behavior rather than punishing bad behavior – are infinitely more effective and they will help you build a bond with your dog rather than tearing it down.

Related: Head’s Up, Dog Trainers: Why You Should Treat Humans Likes Dogs

The key to training your dog is to do it often. Spending one or two hours a week training your dog won’t get you anywhere, unfortunately. Even though many dogs are smart enough that they learn quickly, it still takes a lot of repetition for a behavior to become ingrained and for a dog to respond consistently to a given command. You should engage in several short training sessions per day when you are initially training your dog and then reduce it to one or two reinforcement sessions each week. 

In many ways than one, dogs are like little kids. In this instance, it’s their attention span: it can be super short, but you still shouldn’t let them dictate the pace of the training. If you try to make your training sessions too long your dog could become bored or frustrated – when that happens he might stop listening to you and you will both become frustrated. On the opposite end of the spectrum, keeping your training sessions too short could prevent your dog from properly identifying the desired behavior. We’re not saying your pooch is a dum dum, don’t worry, it’s just that most dogs need a bit of time before figuring out what exactly you want them to do. Aim for several 10 to 15-minute training sessions a day and cut them off when your dog starts to get bored. No pooch is hyper that much that 15 minutes of training is boring- keep it short and sweet and you’ll see results.

Related: The Basics About Dog Body Language

Yes, we all know that the saying “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” applies to man’s best friend, too. Food is an excellent motivator for dogs but you shouldn’t go overboard. Use treats for the first few repetitions of your training sessions – only until your dog positively identifies the desired behavior. After that, you should cut back to rewarding your dog only every few repetitions but keep praising him every time he responds correctly. Dogs love getting positive attention almost as much as they like treats but your love won’t get them obese, so feel free to praise away. Also, a bonus tip: studies have shown that that high-pitched baby voice we use when we talk to our dogs (don’t deny it) improves the bond- feel free to baby talk when you tell your pooch that he’s done a good job.

We can’t stress it enough: consistency is the key. You can teach your dog to do just about anything if you are consistent in your training methods. First, you need to be consistent in using the same verbal command every time and then you must be consistent in praising and rewarding your dog every time he responds correctly. Once a command or behavior has become ingrained you can cut back on food rewards but always praise your dog for responding correctly. Even when it’s a thousandth time that your pooch is sitting down like a good boy he is, don’t forget to applaud their effort. They’ve earned it!

During training, you need to establish yourself as an authority figure so your dog will respect you and listen to your commands. You might want to pet and snuggle your pooch all the time, but the training time should be “business” time. Do not take this too far, however, and force your dog to become submissive – this will only encourage him to fear you. Try to find a balance between being an authority figure for your dog while also developing a loving a trusting bond with him.

The beauty of dog training is that you can train your dog to do just about anything if you employ the proper method and use the right motivation. If you find that you are making one or more of the training mistakes discussed above it is not the end of the world – all you have to do is correct the mistake and your dog will adjust.