Common training mistakes

Welcome to our first official training topic blog!

In the future we hope to have more training information on this blog and we welcome your ideas on what you’d like us to write about. Feel free to submit your ideas to us anytime.

As a new professional trainer, I have had more experience training my own dogs and working with shelter dogs as a volunteer. I have had several clients through Delightful Doggies, a mixture of basic obedience and problem solving that encompasses everything from anxiety issues to nuisance barking and house training. While the problems vary and the dogs are all different in what cues they pick up more easily than others, there are some commonalities in mistakes pet parents make in training that are important to keep in mind no matter what you’re hoping to accomplish in your own dog’s training!

  • “Poisoning” Cues – Many times pet parents will repeat the same cue over and over when a dog isn’t complying, or will get frustrated in the process and in essence “punish” the dog when he does comply because of the frustration. A common example of this is in teaching recall. Fido is out in the yard, having fun running around, and you need him to come inside. You open the door and call, “Fido, come here!” and Fido could care less. The more this goes on, the more your frustration increases. Your tone gets more and more tense, and Fido doesn’t care to come when you sound so unpleasant. Maybe you start chasing him around, making it more of a game for him that causes him to decide it’s more fun to keep running away. By the time you’ve finagled him into coming inside, you’ve had it and he sees it’s not really rewarding to be around you. In some cases, punishment may even be given. Instead of teaching Fido that coming to you is good, you’re causing him to think come is a bad thing that warrants your frustration and punishment. It’s important to never overuse cues or use them in a manner of frustration, and to not let the outcome of what you want be a bad association for him. Don’t work against yourself (and your dog) this way!
  • Poor timing to mark desired behaviors – If you ask your dog to sit and you click or treat before he actually does sit, then you aren’t able to actually effectively teach him what the sit cue is. Pay attention to your timing with your cues (commands) and rewards to make sure Fido is doing what you want. While it can take some time to perfect your own timing, remember to do your best. Fido will be able to learn faster if you are aware of your timing and improve it.
  • Ignoring bad behaviors – This is most common with younger dogs and puppies, where a pet parent thinks a dog will just “grow out of” a behavior that is inappropriate though common, such as nipping or jumping. The best approach is to offer alternative behaviors for the dog and encourage those. These “bad” behaviors may be tolerable when the dog is young but if it’s a Rottie that grows big and strong, nipping and jumping can equal disaster! Offer appropriate toys for chewing and only give him attention when “all four are on the floor,” meaning his paws are on the floor and not on you.
  • Ignoring good behaviors – Likewise, some pet parents do not encourage and provide enough feedback during those times when the dog is being good. Capture those good moments and reinforce them. Is Fido sitting nicely beside you? Give him a good pet and tell him he’s good. Is he being patient and staying in his spot while you are busy making your own dinner, and not begging? Take a break to play a few moments of fetch with him. Is he lying peacefully while you are busy working? Give him a little treat and tell him “good down.” Reinforce all good behaviors with praise, pets, play and treats and concentrate on positive moments instead of just paying attention during his naughty moments!
  • Inconsistency – If you live in a family with several humans it’s important to all be on the same page about how to teach Fido. Likewise, every single person needs to be consistent with her own rules for the dog. If you allow Fido to jump on you every once in a while or if certain people in the family reward him with attention when he does it while others don’t, well…Fido will be very confused and will highly unlikely be able to comply consistently. Make sure everyone is on the same page all the time to ensure Fido’s success with manners.
  • Using Corrections and Positive Punishment Methods – While dominance theory, corrections and positive punishment techniques have long been used in dog training, these theories and methods are increasingly becoming evident as out-of-date and ineffective. They may lead to quicker compliance and seem like they work, but they can also lead to fear and reactivity issues in most dogs. Be careful in using such methods and consult professionals before using them. Positive-based methods of training are increasingly shown to be better for everyone involved, and are not only effective with dogs but with many other animals.

We hope these tips can help you with providing better, more effective training with your dog. Have questions or need help? Contact us for a training consultation!

And remember–make it fun! Fun is a key component in all training, so have fun,
Owner, Delightful Doggies


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