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2 More Dog Training Mistakes

Monday, September 9th, 2013

Have you ever overhead a fellow pet owner lamenting the fact that their pet just isn’t responding well to dog training? It’s a common complaint. But how much of these all-too-common laments are the fault of the pet—and how much are the fault of the owner? Although training a dog to do basic, necessary commands is a relatively simple process, there are many dog training mistakes that can get in the way of the dog’s learning process. Previously, we have talked about three common dog training mistakes: not training your pet often enough, which leads to a deterioration of the pet’s learned behaviors; repeating commands, which leads to a lazy response; and keeping training sessions too long or too short, which can cut down on the benefits of a training session. Next, we’ll talk about two other common and damaging dog training mistakes.

Mistake #1: Training your dog under limited conditions.

2_More_Dog_Training_MistakesDogs need to learn under various conditions. Some pet owners make the mistake of believing that their dog only needs to learn commands—once they have learned a command, they will respond to it no matter the situation or circumstances. This is simply not true. For example, if you train your dog to sit in a calm, quiet room and only in a calm, quiet room, the dog is not learning to obey with any level of distraction. If you attempted to have your dog sit down in a crowded, noisy room, they would be likely to ignore your command altogether or only respond slowly or halfheartedly. It is important to gradually train your dog under a variety of circumstances, especially ones that they will encounter during their daily lives. Train them in quiet rooms—but also train them in living rooms with running children or distracting relatives; train them outside with animals and other people as distractions, and so on. It is important to start training in a room with limited distractions: but remember, don’t limit the way that your dog learns.

Mistake #2:  Relying on treats.

Everyone knows that all you need to do to keep a dog well-trained is a bag of treats, right? Wrong. Although treats are a helpful way to begin the initial process of training your dog, they are not a viable or helpful way to keep a dog well-trained. Think about it: do you see police dogs or disabled-assistance dogs being given treats every time they obey a command? Of course not! Treats would only be a distraction and, in many cases, could cause health issues if given excessively. The key to keeping your dog well-trained without treats is using praise, affection and other types of non-edible positive reinforcement. When you are first teaching your dog, using treats can be helpful—but once they have gotten the hang of things, put away the treat bag and focus on using positive attention instead. Petting your dog, praising your dog, and otherwise making your dog feel special for having done the behavior is a much better way to reinforce training in the long term.