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10 Dog Training Mistakes You’re Making & How to Fix Them

Discover the essential guide to educating your dog while steering clear of the ten most common mistakes. Learn how to train your furry companion effectively and create a lasting bond through positive reinforcement and expert tips.

Turning an overexcited, prancing, weak-bladed puppy into a reliable and well-trained companion is an arduous task.

Proper dog training is essential for building a strong bond between owners and furry companions. However, even the most well-intentioned pet parents can make mistakes that hinder progress or damage the relationship. This article explores some common dog training mistakes that owners should be aware of and avoid.

From unrealistic expectations to inconsistent reinforcement, these pitfalls can undermine the training process and lead to frustration for humans and canines. Owners can foster a more positive and practical approach to dog training by understanding and addressing these potential missteps.

Avoid common mistakes and educate the dog gently, not punitively.

In contrast to the punitive method, positive reinforcement techniques are rewarding for both owner and dog. Here are some typical dog training mistakes we can encounter when educating our dogs and some tips to remedy them.

1. I’m bored! If the education session is too long

It often happens that, caught up in the euphoria of early progress, we overdo the repetition of exercises to the point of exhausting the dog. For example, we have taught the dog to go to his kennel on command; given numerous successes, we insist on sending him to his kennel from the kitchen, the bedroom, and the bathroom until the dog stops, looks at us, shakes himself and leaves, interrupting the interaction with us.

At this point, the session has likely been extended beyond the dog’s tolerance limit. Dogs have a small window of attention (attention curve), beyond which everything loses meaning. Progress on exercise must be achieved through several short work sessions.

Learning requires a lot of concentration on the part of the dog, and if you overdo it, the dog may become bored or show signs of impatience.
A training session should be between five and fifteen minutes.

Although it is difficult to interrupt the dog when he is doing something right and we see him paying attention, we must do so; otherwise, we risk inadvertently overpowering him and thus ruining the whole job. “Short and fun”—that must be the motto of the exercise to be taught! Also, do not wait until the dog starts to make mistakes; instead, end the session when the dog has done well; motivation for the next session will be higher.

2. It’s not enough! When a reward is not delightful

Have you noticed recently that Fido, once called, does not return, especially if he is free in the park, and those few times he does return, he does so with a listless step, even though you have rewarded him every time? What happened to that dog who, until recently, would rush back at the first call? Owners generally choose a reward that they think their dog will like. The best tips would be those that, if the dog could talk, it would list individually, in their hierarchical scale.

In the dog’s mind, knowing there are A, B, C, etc., rewards are essential. A reward reinforces a behaviour so that on the subsequent request, the dog will obey more quickly and successfully. Verbal praise, the classic “Good Boy!” is insufficient in the long term to reinforce a behaviour. A game may already be more interesting, but not all dogs are motivated by play, especially in the park, where they get caught up in a thousand smells and things.

The best thing to do is list what our dog likes: the tennis ball, the chicken (in the sense of food), freedom, the tug of war, the hotdog, etc. We start by using everything he likes as a reward and try to identify the thing that excites him the most. Once we have identified the dog’s hierarchical ladder, it will be easier to guess what might motivate Fido to return to the recall, even if he is busy playing with another dog.

If you give treats too frequently or too large, the dog may later decide to obey only if rewarded with food.
Praise, play and affection play just as important a role as treats.

3. Sit, sit, sit…Repeat the command

Fido sit, sit, sit… Fido? Sit!” Finally, after five requests, Fido sits down and is rewarded. Increasing the repetitions of the command and sometimes the tone of voice always seems to work in the end. But wouldn’t it be better if Fido sat on the first command? When repeating the order, great care must be taken that the dog does not learn that the base consists of five words instead of one. If that were the case, we would only see him sit on the fifth word, not the first “sit”.

Suppose the dog is about to jump on us, and we want it to sit instead. In that case, we ask the dog for the command once, remain calm without letting frustration get the better of us, and, if it does not sit, gently position it using the reward in the posture we have requested (it is very likely that the dog has not yet fully learned the command). Only with many repetitions of the exercise will the dog learn to sit on command using one word.

The important thing for the owner is to remain calm, avoid repetitions of the command (which serve no purpose) and instead concentrate on positioning the dog if, by chance, he has not understood what is required.

4. But he always does it at home. He always does it in the same places

Fido immediately sits as soon as we ask him when we are in the kitchen, living room or bedroom; when he is in the garden, he immediately responds to the call, but if we are in the park or at the vet’s, he doesn’t seem to want to listen. The dog is generally very aware of its surroundings; if exercises are only and exclusively practised in familiar environments such as the house and the school field, this can slow down or interfere with learning and executing commands in other settings.

To get a dog under control and always respond to our requests, all exercises should be tested in as many places as possible. Only then can we be sure that “sitting” means sitting anywhere and not just where we commonly practise (home or school).

Taking the dog around and practising the exercises everywhere is the only way to generalise the commands (shops, shopping centres, city centres, etc.). The number of distractions present must also be considered along with the change of location. The best solution is to start in a new place with few distractions and gradually add more.

5. Unrealistic expectations: Teaching the impossible

After practising and practising the recall command with Fido, we take him to the park and leave him free to play with other dogs. We sometimes try to call him, but Fido does not come. Before we demand action from the dog, we must ask ourselves how likely it is to succeed.

If we have never tested the recall when Fido is playing with other dogs, it is doubtful that he will perform the requested action. When we decide to teach the dog new exercises, it is a good idea first to check the feasibility of these exercises considering the type of dog, age, breed, etc.

The suggestion is to train him in the morning or evening when he is in a relaxed environment but not flexible enough to induce drowsiness.
Mistiming, not knowing when to reprimand or reward our dog.

Asking an old dog to jump in the car may not be the best way to get it to obey, so it is better to teach it to use the ramp. Suppose we let a newly adopted dog loose in an unfamiliar environment. In that case, we already know that it will almost certainly not come to our call because the relationship has not yet been established, and so on. The demands on the four-legged dog must be realistic and possible to fulfil.

6. Not noticing the dog’s good behaviour.

My dog doesn’t do this; he doesn’t do that; he ruins my house, digs in the garden, etc.”. It is always much more accessible to notice what the dog does not do well than what it does. For example, we are out for a walk in an urban context, and we meet another dog who threatens ours, who ignores the challenge issued by the other quadruped and continues in conduct by coming after us. How many times have we rewarded such situations?

A few, occasionally, never? In that context, the dog should be rewarded for ignoring the other dog and continuing in conduct without pulling and creating discomfort for the owner. When a guest arrives, we all yell at the dog not to jump on people, and when we are sitting at lunch and he retreats to his kennel, he is ignored—another missed opportunity to reward what is useful.

Instead of focusing on everything wrong, let’s start noticing what the dog does (even spontaneously) and reward him for it. The law of positive reinforcement is based on the concept that rewarding a particular behaviour is more likely to be repeated. By recognising and valuing the behaviour we like in the dog, we will notice that it will be repeated more often spontaneously and will replace the negative behaviour.

7. Corruption for life: Always having food in hand

Have we ever seen the dog return to the call only if we have the biscuit? Or should we only see the dog sit when the bowl is ready? Can Fido ‘train’ us to release resources when he chooses to do so? By ‘bribery’, we mean when the dog only performs something to our liking when he sees the reward in our hands and ignores our requests when made without reinforcement.

At the beginning of a training course, it may happen that “bribery” is only used to induce the dog into certain positions. After the command is learnt and tested in various environments, the reward must be released at varying intervals and does not always have to be the same. This type of procedure is called “fading” of the prize. If this does not occur, the dog learns to discriminate requests only when the reward is visible.

The treat proves to be an essential element in reinforcing good behaviour in the dog. However, abuse of this practical can be very harmful.
The treat is an essential element in reinforcing good behaviour in the dog. However, abuse of this practical can be very harmful.

Therefore, it is preferable to first request the command and, only after correct execution, release the reward, which does not always have to be exclusively food. If the dog is unsure what kind of reward is being released, it is much more likely to be interested in finding out and performing what is requested. Furthermore, as mentioned above, it is good to remember that there are A and B rewards.

Even freedom can be seen in the dog’s eyes as a great asset and, therefore, a great reward. The best way to keep Fido interested in us is to leave him on his toes more often (after ensuring the dog understands and can fulfil the requests).

8. What a bad day. We are educating with frustration.

It happens to everyone to come home after one of those days at work where all sorts of things have happened! Despite believing we can recover in a few minutes’ rest and be able to get on with the routine of the end of the day, we know that frustration is latent within us, ready to come out at the umpteenth dissatisfaction.

On those days, it is perhaps best to avoid exercising with the dog because, at the slightest mistake by Fido, we will most likely explode with all that frustration accumulated during the day.

There is nothing worse than making the training session a nightmare for Fido. So enjoy your well-deserved break and practise with your favourite on another occasion.

9. Going the extra mile.

I was not in control of distractions and the environment. Everything that could go wrong must be considered when introducing new control exercises. For example, if I want to teach the dog to “sit-rest” when I open the front door, I will have to organise myself to prevent any possible fruit or failure of the exercise.

Training is inconsistent. Always use the same command for each action and ensure the dog performs it exactly once learned.
You are jeopardising the whole learning process if you give a command and let the dog not obey.

I might use a “harness” Long Leash” to stop the dog if he tries to run away from the door; I might practise at a different time from when the postman or delivery van passes by; I might ask a friend to help me imitate a distraction at the door, etc. In any case, it is always advisable to organise the work setting, excluding all factors that could set the dog up for failure. Rewarding successes several times motivates the dog and the owner, who sees the hard work pay off.

10. Finding the right reasons.

For every type of dog behaviour that causes us discomfort or that we do not like, it is necessary to properly assess why it occurs, what the dog thinks it will achieve and how inadvertently it may have been rewarded.

For example, the dog that jumps on us and is pushed and shouted at has somehow got our attention and will, therefore, be inclined to repeat the action. If, on the other hand, whenever he jumps on us, we leave without talking to him, looking at him or touching him, then the behaviour will be extinguished, as the dog will realise that it has no gratification. There is no gratification in it.

On the contrary, stopping the activity with the dog can be seen as punishment (if you jump on me, I leave, and so we don’t play, you don’t stay with me, etc.). So be wary of quick and easy remedies, but try to understand your best friend to become even more inseparable.

Conclusion:

Dog training is a rewarding journey that strengthens the connection between pets and their owners. However, as this article has highlighted, it’s crucial to avoid common dog training mistakes that can impede progress or strain the human-animal bond. From ensuring training sessions are concise and engaging to providing appropriate rewards and setting realistic goals, a mindful approach is critical.

Owners can navigate the training process with tremendous success and enjoyment by being attuned to their dog’s needs, maintaining consistency, and celebrating small victories. Avoiding these pitfalls can lead to a well-behaved, happy dog and a deeper, more fulfilling relationship between pet and owner.

Thank you for reading the article to the end. Your reading contribution was significant to us.

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The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

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Written by Frenchie Breed

The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

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