Doh! Common Mistakes in Dog Training
So you've got your new pup or dog, now what?
Training, of course!
Hiring a professional , searching the internet and reading positive reinforcement based training books are all great ways to get off on the right paw.
In developing and solidifying a strong training program for your dog, it is important to recognize and avoid these common dog training no-nos.
Below are some of the most commonly made mistakes in dog training:
1. Ignoring Desired/Wanted Behavior
As the trainer, it is your job to clearly communicate to your dog when you like what she is doing. It is equally important to reward your dog for good behavior whether or not you have asked for it.
Rewarded or acknowledged consistently, your dog will learn that particular behaviors bring good things (treats/toys, being petted, hearing you say "good dog!") and he will begin offering these behaviors more frequently and reliably.
For example, if a young puppy collects a chew toy (instead of your shoes or furniture)and heads to her bed to lie down calmly (instead of jumping on the couch or racing around), it is extremely important that you provide her with information that you like what she is doing. Taking good behavior for granted is the quickest way to lose it.
Think of your behavior at work. If you were not paid, given performance feedback or raises, how motivated would you be to set that alarm every morning?
2. Rewarding unwanted/undesired behavior
The best examples I can give of rewarding unwanted behavior are demand barking and jumping as a form of greeting.
Owners often believe they are correcting or dissuading their pup from jumping or barking by responding to these behaviors with a stern look and "no," while brushing the dog from their leg or grabbing the dog to calm him.
In both cases, the jumping or barking dog is seeking attention. The response described above (eye contact, hearing a voice and being touched) gives the dog (almost) exactly what he/she is craving.
While it may seem counter intuitive, ignoring undesired behaviors and responding only to calm behavior is an extremely effective way of training your pup. Don't be confused though, this does NOT mean you should allow your dog free roam to practice bad behavior.
3. Too much freedom and inconsistency:
Simply put, puppies that chew shoes...were given access to shoes! Dogs that jump are allowed to jump. It’s really that simple.
By allowing a dog too much freedom or the ability to practice undesired behaviors, an owner enables him/her to develop bad habits. Prevention and management are easy and will reduce the likelihood of behavior problems down the road.
If your dog is a jumper for example, she should be on leash when guests come over. If your puppy is fully not housetrained, he should not be given free roam of the house, but rather placed in a crate when unsupervised.
Some examples of prevention and management tools: crate, gate, readily available and enticing chew toys, leash, closed doors, safety latches on cabinets, secure fencing.
4. Assuming the dog "knows" a behavior too early
People will come to puppy class confidently announcing their smart puppy knows "sit." Twenty minutes into class they declare that their puppy knows what "sit" means, but is stubborn at times and will not offer the behavior when outside of the house or when excited.
The puppy is not stubborn. The puppy is simply learning "sit" and has not mastered the behavior enough to generalize it to all places and situations.
Dogs are great at picking up particular cues from their routine environment. This means that while in your quiet apartment, while you are holding a treat, you’re pup knows "sit." Change the situation (when guests come over) or environment (like adding city noise) and all bets are off.
This is extremely normal dog behavior. Strong behavior is only built over a long period of time. Before you can assume your dog knows anything, you must first do lots of practice not only in your home, but in numerous environments.
5. Moving too fast – Setting goals too high
People expect dogs to learn fast. They assume because their dog is "smart" that he should stop exhibiting unwanted behavior or learn a new behavior almost instantaneously.
Compare this to you learning a new skill. How many times before you will master a black diamond hill loaded with moguls? How hard was it for you or a friend to stop smoking, biting your fingernails (ewww) or stop eating the chocolate that is in your cabinet?
Be fair to your dog and set training goals that are easily attained. Taking 100 baby steps forward will be much faster and more productive than taking leaps back and forth.
Your dog will need to receive AMPLE FEEDBACK (praise & treats) OFTEN about his behavior in order to learn. Set too high, you and your dog will be left frustrated and confused with goals that are simply unattainable.
The training you and your pup do should be fun and easy for both of you. Being mindful and working to avoid these mistakes, you and your dog will be on the fast track to building a trusting and enjoyable relationship (and good manners too!).