April 4, 2017

Are You Making These 10 Dog Training Mistakes?

1. "My dog growled and/or bit someone. That means they're aggressive."
Many dog owners think that if their dog growls or bites someone, they have an aggressive dog on their hands. However, that it isn't true. It could be fear-based aggression, which technically isn't aggression at all. Is your dog yawning, licking his lips, or doing moon eye before he lashes out? Those are signs of fear in dogs. Was someone hugging your dog, chasing your dog, or interacting with them in a way that makes your dog feel uncomfortable? Pushing your dog's boundaries or spooking your dog will make your dog want to defend himself.

2. I comfort my dog when's scared of something (the vet, the car, another dog, a stranger, etc.) but he isn't getting any better around what he's afraid of. It seems like he's gotten worse. That means I need to comfort him more.
No, it doesn't. I've heard conflicting opinions on how it works on different dogs, but typically, you shouldn't be comforting and cooing to your dog when he is anxious or afraid. Why? They think you're rewarding the behavior. They think they get your attention, affection, and make you proud when you use kind words to make your dog less anxious, while you're actually making it worse. Try to slowly condition your dog to what he's afraid of. Use treats and affection to reward your dog for good behavior. For example, if your dog is afraid at the vet, don't give him praise and a treat. Make him sit and then reward him. That way, he's momentarily distracted from his fear, and your dog will know you're rewarding him for the sit and his eagerness to please you, not his anxiety.

3. When my dog seems protective of me, I hold him, but it still doesn't make him calm down.
Your dog is not a baby. When you hold your dog, you are 1. making your dog much closer to you physically and 2. making your dog more powerful. Your dog will be more protective of you if you hold him or bring him close to you, and you are making him more likely to bite. This is only if your dog is already in a protective mode...I'm not saying don't hold your dog. Your dog won't hurt someone else to protect you if you let your dog know the other person isn't a threat. You can have the other person give your dog treats and act calmly, talking in a quiet voice. Your dog should calm down in no time.

4. I showed my dog I'm the Alpha by correcting his behavior harshly and rolling him on his back to make him submit to me, but he doesn't seem to be behaving better.
Don't listen to dominance theories. A dog should see their human as a leader, but not as a harsh or cruel leader. A human and their dog should have a strong bond, and positive training is all about your dog doing what's he was born to do: pleasing and working with you. If you make your dog excited and eager to work for rewards and positive reinforcement instead of training with fear, you will see a huge difference in your dog. You two will bond more, too!

5. I'm trying to teach my dog a trick or stop one of his bad behaviors, but he never fully does what he's supposed to do so I can never reward him.
Here are some examples: when you're teaching shake, don't only reward when your dog picks up his paw and shakes your hand. He will only do this when he fully understands what you want him to do. It's all about baby steps. Reward when he twitches his paw or slightly lifts it up the ground. When teaching spin, reward for the slightest turn. Work your way up to what you're teaching your dog, or he'll never learn what the result is supposed to be. Also, in teaching your dog something like not to pull on the leash, even a momentary loose leash moment should be heavily rewarded. Don't expect your dog to magically learn the result in a minute. Work up to the result, and your dog will understand.

6. When my dog jumps, I pet him and when he begs, I give him a bite of food. I give him what he wants from me, so why does he keep jumping and begging?
Those are just a couple of examples. There are tons of things you could be doing that enforce your dog's bad behavior and you don't even realize it. Petting your dog when he jumps teaches him you give him affection and you're happy with him when he jumps. Plus, he now knows that's one way he can get your affection without earning it. When your dog begs, giving him a bit of food only means he'll come back for more. When your dog jumps, instead turn around and don't look at your dog right when he's about to jump. Then turn around and reward your dog, if he didn't jump anyway of course. When your dog begs, just ignore him. During meals, you could give him his meal or a stuffed Kong so he has something to enjoy in the meantime.

7. My dog won't come to me when I call him at the dog park when we have to leave. He doesn't come anymore when I call him to give him his medicine, or sometimes even if I just want to pet him. He used to always come when I called him, no matter what.
Did you know you could be punishing your dog for obeying your commands, even if you don't realize it? Perhaps your dog used to come to you when you called him to leave the dog park, but now he knows that responding to "come" means leaving. You call your dog into the kitchen, and he obeys, only to have a pill shoved down his throat. Now your dog associates "come" with negative things, and he might not have such reliable recall anymore. Here's what to do: when you leave the dog park, go up to your dog instead of calling him. When you need to give him medicine, go up to him instead. When you want to pet him and take him out for a walk, that's when you can say "come" or use his name.

8. My puppy has a ton of chew toys to choose from, but he still chews up the furniture, my shoes, and everything else in the house.
Just because you got all those chew bones at Petsmart doesn't mean that will make your dog understands they're for him. Don't just leave out all your dog's chew toys and expect them to play with them! Reward him when he plays with him, and when your dog picks up one of your objects he shouldn't be chewing, don't scold him or simply snatch the object away. Redirect him with a positive tone, give him a chew toy, give him some affection, and let him enjoy his toy. Don't just tell your what not to do, tell them what to do!

9. A couple months ago, my dog learned some commands like "stay" and "leave it" and "speak" in an obedience class. Now it seems like he doesn't even remember them.
Just because your dog learned some tricks a few months ago doesn't mean he'll remember them. It's good to practice your dog's learned behaviors every day, even once or twice, to keep them remembering that skill. You can incorporate quick training sessions into everyday life.

10. I repeat a command to my dog a hundred times, but he still doesn't listen.
Many dog trainers insist that you don't repeat a command to your dog a hundred times if he still isn't obeying. Instead, only say the word once. That way, the word is a command in your dog's eyes, not just a casual word you say a hundred times to them. Also, repeating the command once teaches your dog to obey promptly.


  1. Hari OM
    All good stuff!!! Hugs and wags, YAM-aunty xxx

  2. Wow good info friend. Mom makes mistakes BOL
    Lily & Edward

  3. That is some very good information! I have found that doing tricks and/or playing around something your dog is afraid of is a good way to overcome their fear of it.

  4. Those are some good mistakes to highlight. We see them done all the time (not at our house).

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

  5. What training? I'm a guy who lives by his on rules.

    Aroo to you,

  6. EXCELLENT !!! You NAILED each and every situation. WELL DONE.


You don't need to lift your leg to leave a mark on my blog. Just leave a friendly comment! I read each and every one of them. If better suited, use the "contact" tab below my blog header to get in touch with me.