Basic Training

Five Training Mistakes to Avoid: Part 1

More often than not, well-intentioned pet owners accidentally step into some common dog training pitfalls. These seemingly irrelevant acts can have a huge impact on Fido’s behavior, and radically hold up your obedience training.

Unfortunately, this usually results in an uninformed owner becoming exasperated with the lack of clear progress in his pooch’s behavior, blinded by the fact that he in fact was the reason of the setbacks. This is often the time when the owner decides that his pooch is “not trainable”, and gives up.

Top Five Dog Training Blunders

1. Failure to establish leadership. Because dogs are pack animals, you need to make it a point that you are the leader. By establishing this hierarchy clearly, you can avoid future behavioral problems in your dog. You can establish your role as the leader by exerting a level of control on every aspect of your dog’s life.

2. Inadequate amount of exercise. All breeds, regardless of size, need sufficient physical and mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy. Leaving your pooch cooped up all day long will bore him. Since excess energy, boredom, and frustration are often manifested in ways that most owners can never be happy with, try to meet your dog’s exercise needs on a regular basis.

3. Wrong state of mind. Dogs normally communicate through body language. Because you are your pooch’s pack leader, he will take his cues from you. In fact, if you are excited, so is he. If you are anxious, so is he. That’s why, if you want to keep a happy and healthy pet during training, you have to be good at showing calm as well as confident energy through your body language. Don’t send the wrong, unhelpful signals.

4. Failure to reward desirable behavior. Always bear in mind that whatever your pooch is doing at the very time you rewarded him is what he will connect the reinforcement with. Since such principle is applicable to any kind of canine behavior, try rewarding and praising Fido for behaving well even if he did something off beam a couple of seconds prior to that.

5. Lack of practice. Because patience and persistence are basically the hallmarks of an effective dog training program, it is important that you let your dog keep on practicing even if he has already moved past the learning stage. You can do this by letting your pooch apply what he has learned on everyday things. If he wants to eat, let him sit, be on a down position, or whatever tricks you want before you put his food bowl down. Does he want to go out or come in? Same thing. Let him earn everything.

Check back next week for 5 More Training Mistakes to Avoid, and share your own tips with our readers in a comment below.

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Priyanka

    Oct 7, 2013 at 1:54 am

    It’s tough training dogs and if you don’t know what you’re doing it could lead to a disaster. Liza and her team are great and they understand what your dog needs. Training your dog is essential and while you plan to do so, it’s advisable you choose the best.

  2. Brigitte

    Sep 20, 2012 at 6:07 am

    In Addition, I would also strike the word “alpha” as it’s part of the dominance/bully line of thought. A true leader is benevolent and CONSISTENT in all his/her actions. The dog learns a clear pattern and what role to play when, be it sleep, guard, work, eat — whatever. NILIF (nothing in life is free), as you touched on, is a great way to establish leadership: dog wants something (food, play, petting), dog has to “pay” with a desired behavior, like sit, down, turn in circles, wag your tail, etc. It teaches impulse control and becomes a fun game for the dog!

    • Lisa Matthews

      May 7, 2013 at 6:34 am

      Another thing to keep in mind is that it’s been extensively proven that dogs are not, in fact, true pack animals in the way that you may think. And Dr. David Mech – someone you should absolutely research – explains clearly why the the terms “pack leader” and “alpha” are incorrectly perpetuated terms. And if you scratch the surface at all in doing research, you’ll discover that in many places (Russia, India) street dogs have been studied extensively. Instead of telling you what was discovered about these wild dogs, I encourage you to read for yourself. Dog are closely related to us genetically as we are to chimpanzees, but where we differ is cavernous. This is why sociologist study our own species instead of studying chimps to write about human’s related to social situations. To this point, it also makes sense to study wild dogs and draw from that data rather than wolves who were forced to live together. There’s so much misinformation out there, and to perpetuate such misinformation is a travesty because we all lose when that happens. — Lisa Matthews Ed.S, VSPDT, CPDT-KA, Owner of Pawsitive Practice Training, LLC

      • Lisa Matthews

        May 7, 2013 at 8:54 am

        Sorry, let me correct something from my post above. I meant to say in the post above that: “genetically speaking, dogs are as closely related to wolves as we are to chimpanzees, but the differences are cavernous. These vast differences are precisely why sociologist study our own species instead of studying chimps to write about humans in social groups and situations.”
        — Lisa Matthews Ed.S, VSPDT, CPDT-KA, Owner of Pawsitive Practice Training, LLC

        • Mike brunning

          Sep 19, 2014 at 1:14 am

          I just read a paper by prof j Bradshaw from England on dog come from wolves. Most thinking on this relates to the timber wolf, which is incorrect. The paper is a good read

  3. Deborah Moore

    Aug 17, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    I agree with most of these points, but I think the word “dominance” has been overused so much in recent years, the average person understands that to mean RULING your dog. Being the tough guy that rides herd over the puppy. Leadership is a much better understood term without all the negatives attached to the perceived definition. I am working with a family right now, trying to defuse their now-anxious puppy because of the dad being a BIG fan of a certain dominance oriented trainer. This poor, sweet, smart puppy is a wreck from being “dominanced,” “grounded” and “Shh-d”.
    The actual science of dog behavior from experts like Dr Sophia Yin, Dr Patricia McConnell and Prof John Bradshaw give a much truer and more updated look at understanding and training dogs.

    • Brandy Arnold

      Aug 17, 2012 at 7:55 pm

      Excellent point, Deborah! In fact, I agree with you so completely that I’ve edited the article. Excellent!

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