Top five common mistakes to avoid when training your dog
There is a huge amount of information available for the best way to train your dog, with many plans and strategy guides, all of which suggest something different. While you might be overwhelmed by this sometimes contradictory information, it is important to know that the things not to do when dog training are pretty much set in stone, whatever strategy you are using. These mistakes will cause frustration for both you and your dog and are likely to have a big impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of your training. Here are some of the biggest mistakes that you must avoid when training your dog, as compiled by our experts…
1. Starting training too late
For training to be the most effective, it should start the moment your dog comes home with you. This is regardless of your new dog’s age, as the older they get, the more likely they are to form bad habits which can be extremely difficult to break once established. While beginning training sessions should not focus on advanced commands, basic training will help to increase the bond between you and your dog and will help to create a firm foundation on which to build on in the future.
Young puppies should start with the very basics, especially house training, and this should also begin as soon as possible. Once your dog has become accustomed to you, and the routine of training sessions, you can move onto more advanced training; while the rate at which this occurs will be different for each dog, starting training early will really help to speed up the process.
2. Negatively associating cues
Also known as ‘poisoning cues’, this is an all too common mistake that first-time trainers fall into. When training your dog, is it important not to associate any commands with things that they will find unpleasant or view negatively. For example, in the early stages of training, you should not use the ‘come’ command when you want to bath your dog. In their mind, they will associate this command with something they do not like, and therefore will not respond to it. Once the command is fully integrated then it may be okay to do this, but it’s certainly something that needs to be avoided when training.
3. Not using positive reinforcement
Key to good training and reinforcing commands in the early stages is the use of positive reinforcement. By rewarding your dog for good behaviour with a treat, they associate their action with a positive outcome. This also works on a chemical level, by releasing a ‘happy’ chemical called dopamine into your dog’s brain, in exactly the same way as human brains work. While people may avoid using treats on the basis that they may affect their dog’s diet, this can easily be solved by using grain-free dog treats, which have a host of health benefits while also having reduced calories.
Once the behaviour has become routine, you do not need to reward your dog every time they respond to your call, however, during the early stages of training positive reinforcement is certainly beneficial.
4. Ignoring your own mood
If you ever try working when you are in a bad mood, the results are often of a poorer quality than they would normally be. This concept can be applied to most aspects of life, including training your dog. When you are frustrated or upset your patience is likely to wear thin very quickly, and you are more likely to get angry with small mistakes made by your dog. Training requires lots of patience and encouragement on your part, so avoid trying any training exercises if you don’t feel up to it – after a bad day at work, it’s much more therapeutic to snuggle up to your dog or go for a long walk and relieve your stress.
5. Reinforcing the wrong behaviour
A common mistake for first-time trainers is to accidentally reinforce negative behaviour in your dog. Dogs are social creatures who seek attention and love; giving your dog large amounts of attention when they are doing something negative will actually suggest to them that their behaviour is okay (because they are receiving attention from you) and therefore they will continue to do it. Examples of this include caving into their demands straight away when they bark or comforting them if they are angry. Often in these cases, the best thing to do is ignore your dog until their negative behaviour has stopped. Once they have stopped, it is important to spend a few minutes practicing commands and positively reinforcing good behaviour, helping to establish the correct behaviour through training.