We have something to tell you:
If you have interacted with a dog before, you have trained one.
What do we mean by this? Well, have you ever pet a dog to calm them down when they are excited? Have you given a friend’s dog food off your plate when they beg? Have you let your dog out of the crate when they whine? Have you gotten off the couch when your dog growled at you?
There are many more everyday examples. The likelihood is that whether intentionally or not, you have taught a dog something before. Many people unknowingly reinforce a dog’s behaviour through their actions.
And even when you actively start attempting to train your dog, you will probably make mistakes. This is normal and part of the learning process! In order to best set both you AND your dog up for success, we always recommend that you seek out professional help.
Below, you will find a list of some common dog training mistakes to help you get a better handle on the interactions you have with your dog. This is by no means a training guide, but is rather to help you better understand where you might be going wrong.
As stated above, every interaction your dog has is teaching them something. Training should start as soon as you take your dog home. This doesn’t mean that you need to do an obedience session the minute your dog walks in the door, but you should always consider how you react to their behaviour as a training mechanism.
Patience is key when training a dog. If you get frustrated with their behaviour, you are more likely to communicate the wrong thing to them.
For example: you are training your dog. You call them, and they don’t come as soon as you would like. When they finally do run up to you, you scold them. For us humans, we understand the logic here. If this were you, you might think, “Even though I eventually came over to them, I didn’t come quickly enough. Next time, I will respond faster.”
The dog will not think that way. You have just created a negative experience when they obeyed your command. Rather, what will go through your dog’s mind is, “I thought they wanted me to come over, but now they are telling me that was wrong. Next time, I will try to avoid this.”
If you are in a bad mood and your patience is simply non-existent, don’t train. Wait until both you and your dog are in the proper mainframe and start again.
You need to reward good behaviour as soon as it happens. The reward must come within a few seconds of a command being followed. If you wait too long, the dog will not associate the positive reinforcement with the command given and the action they performed.
This is otherwise known as “Cue Nagging”. If you say a command and your dog does not follow it, do not continue to repeat yourself. If you do this, the command may become meaningless-learned irrelevance, and you have essentially burnt that order.
If you only train when you are at home, your dog’s obedience may not be as effective when you are on a walk. Why? Because there aren’t as many distractions at home as there are on the street and dogs have a hard time generalizing.
If your dog is distracted, you need to be able to get their attention and have them follow your commands. To avoid this, practice everywhere you may go with your dog.
Switch it up! First off, you’re not always going to have treats (high-value rewards) on you, although we do suggest it. Incorporate praise and play into your training regimen. Most of your rewards can be the high-value reward you decide upon, just make sure you include variation in your reward structure.
Although this might seem contrary to what we stated above, there does need to be consistency in your training regimen regarding certain aspects.
For instance, you can’t allow your dog to jump up and greet you at the door and then not allow them to jump up and greet guests. This is very confusing to your dog.
You need to decide how you will train and what your dog’s boundaries will be before you begin. Further, everyone who will be interacting with your dog must be on board and adhere to these rules.
Does your dog only start to follow commands when they see you have a treat in your hand? Avoid this by not pulling out the treat until they have performed the desired action.
This is so important. Most people assume that canine socialization means meeting people and other animals. This is a common misconception.
Rather, proper socialization is when your dog can co-exist in any environment without the need to interact with another person or animal. We have addressed how to properly socialize your dog with other dogs in another blog and suggest you read it to get a better idea of where you may be going wrong with your socialization practices.
At iTrainK9, we know the training process doesn’t end when your dog comes home to you from their board and train. This is why we include take-home material and follow-up lessons with all our programs. We focus on creating a happy and obedient family pet and want to help nurture an ongoing relationship between you and your dog. If you are considering professional training, please reach out to discuss your options.