Most dogs need to be fully trained in order to stay safe, prevent other people from getting harmed, and reduce the amount of damage that may be done to the household due to chewing or accidents. Whether you get a professional to do the training for you or you decide to train the dog yourself, most dogs can be properly trained with hard work and patience. However, certain mistakes in training can hinder progress and possibly make behavior worse. The best way to avoid these mistakes is knowing how to identify them and find a better way to handle the situation.
Lack of Practice
Training a dog to do tricks or to simply behave is something that requires diligence. You can’t teach a dog a trick and think they’ve learned it for life. Stagnation in practice will often result in a dog either not performing the trick often when told or completely ignoring your commands.
You don’t have to set aside a strict training schedule. It’s best to try and integrate certain commands into your everyday life to keep them motivated to continue doing it when told and to keep the correlation between command and trick fresh in their minds. For instance, practice the command “sit” when you come home and they start to jump on you. Practice “down” when it’s time to go to bed. Practice “shake” or “paw” when they’re begging for a treat or toy.
Training Sessions Too Long
It’s great to take initiative with your dog’s training, but it’s important to realize that dogs, especially in their puppy stage, easily get bored and distracted. Having overly long training sessions, particularly those that focus on one specific trick, makes dogs bored and frustrated. They may even correlate the trick and command to a negative experience and fail to do it in the future. Training sessions should last no longer than 10 minutes, and they should be kept to a maximum of three times a day. Spacing out training sessions and including plenty of playtime between them will help keep your dog happy and open for more training.
Not Using Rewards Properly
Dogs need praise and some form of reward to understand that performing a certain command when told results in a positive outcome for them. Verbal praise is necessary, but it is not enough on its own. Use something that your dog loves as a training treat, such as chicken or their favorite type of biscuit. Don’t use toys, as this may prompt the dog to play instead of train. Only give the dog the treat when they’ve performed the action. Slowly wean the dog down from getting a treat after every trick to doing it every so often. This will prevent the dog from getting reliant on the treats without taking away their rewards entirely.
Using the Crate as a Punishment
Canines are den-dwelling animals. They like cozy areas where they feel encompassed and safe. For any dogs, their crate is this area. Dogs should be trained to understand that their crate is their home within the home. It’s a place where they can relax and sleep, not a place that they’re forced into when they’ve done something wrong. Since dogs sometimes need to be crated for travel purposes, house training, and staying home alone, it’s best to assure them as much as possible that the crate is a nice place to be. Otherwise, it can be a nightmare to get them into the crate, and they could develop anxiety problems over time.
Consistency is key in training dogs. If you teach a dog to lie down by saying “down,” only say “down” to prompt that action. Don’t switch to “lie down or “go lie down.” They have been taught to correlate one command with one action. Changing this command, even slightly, may result in a confused dog and a frustrated owner. Stick to one command per trick. If you slip up, catch yourself as quickly as you can and change to the correct command. This will help solidify the command in your dog’s mind and improve communication in long-term training.
Even if your dog needs a professional dog trainer, you are responsible for keeping up their training throughout their lives. You don’t need to go to dog training school to help keep your dog well behaved and happy. As long as you avoid these mistakes and share the workload of training with your dog, you will be sure to have your best friend be on their best behavior.