15 Common Mistakes When Training a Dog

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. May 24, 2017
15 Common Mistakes When Training a Dog

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Training a dog looks easy when you see a skilled and experienced trainer. However, not all trainers have the same skills and the same experience, and mistakes in dog training are more common than one might think.

If you are planning to become a trainer or going to start training your dog on your own, it may help to know the errors that occur most frequently during dog training.

In this AnimalWised article we will explain what the 15 most common mistakes are when training a dog, keep reading:

You may also be interested in: Common Puppy Training Mistakes

1. Using traditional dog training

This error is very common among people who strictly follow traditional style training. It is a standard of training that predominantly uses negative reinforcement and punishment, intended to dispel unwanted behaviour.

However, this method can give rise to unpredictable responses in the dog, especially those who suffer severe behaviour problems. Moreover, it does not necessarily eliminates the behaviour we were trying to change.

Traditional dog training is present in most sites devoted to education and dog training. For that reason in AnimalWised we make an effort to change this approach by using positive reinforcement on all our items.

15 Common Mistakes When Training a Dog - 1. Using traditional dog training

2. A weak reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is to reward the dog when it carries out an order or has an attitude that pleases us us. Reinforcing a behaviour can be done through food, caresses and kind words and this helps the animal to remember more easily and improve its relationship with us.

The rate of reinforcement should be high when you are learning. This ensures that they stay motivated and let you do several repetitions in a short time. Many coaches give very few food 'rewards' or play to little with their dogs, so they lose interest in training and concentrate on the food or toys. In some cases, these dogs are frustrated and develop obsessive behaviours toward food or toys. Make your own delicious dog biscuits following the advice of AnimalWised.

15 Common Mistakes When Training a Dog - 2. A weak reinforcement

3. Bad timing

Timing is the synchrony between behaviour and reinforcement (Food, toys, etc.). Bad timing means the reward is given before or long after the desired behaviour, so the dog does not associate such behaviour with the 'reward'.

Most trainers have bad timing at first, but they improve with experience. If your dog training does not progress, assess if your timing is right. You can ask a friend to see you train and evaluate your timing.

15 Common Mistakes When Training a Dog - 3. Bad timing

4. The punishments

Although there are methods based on negative reinforcement and punishment, all that is achieved is to inhibit the dogs behaviour and have it respond only through fear. Such training can lead to problems with aggression or in some cases completely inhibit the responses of the animal. It is best to reduce the use of punishment to a minimum.

15 Common Mistakes When Training a Dog - 4. The punishments

5. Unnatural behaviour

When training a dog you have to consider its natural behaviour. Not all dogs have the same instinctual behaviours and not all have the same capacity for different functions (although all dogs can be taught to behave well and be a good companion).

For example, it is practically impossible to teach a beagle to not follow tracks. For a dog that is not motivated by food games then other reinforcements will have to be used, while with a shy dog there will be a need for more patience than with an extroverted one. This behaviour does not always link to breed, it is also influenced by the personality or mental intelligence of the animal.

15 Common Mistakes When Training a Dog - 5. Unnatural behaviour

6. Consistency

To train a dog you must be consistent. If you forbid it to sleep in the bed one day and the next day you allow it to so to stop it whining you will only confuse the dog.

Being inconsistent in its training or everyday life leads the dog to develop inappropriate behaviours or achieve a role in the home that is not correct. We must set among all family members the same rules that all must honour and respect.

15 Common Mistakes When Training a Dog - 6. Consistency

7. Training sessions that are very long or very short

It is easy to get excited about the dog's training and make very long training sessions of 10 minutes or more. These sessions bore and tire the dog, taking its motivation and making learning difficult. It is also easy to fall into the other extreme and think that with a couple of repetitions it is sufficient. The two extremes are bad and hurt training.

Remember that dog training sessions should be short but allow multiple repetitions. It is better to distribute three sessions of 5 minutes throughout the day that to do one session of 15 minutes, for example. Discover how a dog training session should be like and a few extra tips to develop it properly.

15 Common Mistakes When Training a Dog - 7. Training sessions that are very long or very short

8. Choosing the conditions for each session erroneously.

Novice coaches often do not see the distractions present during training and do not understand why their dogs take so long to learn. You have to choose the place of training so that there are not excessive distractions for your dog's level.

This means that in the beginning nothing should compete with you for your dog's attention. Even other speakers you can be a distraction. As you progress in training you can start adding distractions, but always choosing the conditions in which you will carry out each training session.

15 Common Mistakes When Training a Dog - 8. Choosing the conditions for each session erroneously.

9. Do not generalise behaviour

Getting your dog to respond in different circumstances, you have to generalise their behaviour in different places and situations. This should be done gradually, but is very necessary. If you do not, your dog will respond only in certain circumstances and places. The repetition of a behaviour or command in different environments and times is the key to our dog understanding and performing properly.

15 Common Mistakes When Training a Dog - 9. Do not generalise behaviour

10. Do not remove physical rewards

As your dog learns and perfects its training you have to eliminate the use of food that you use to reinforce each behaviour. Gradually you will have to use other reinforces in everyday situations. Otherwise, your dog will expect you always to have food in your hand to answer your orders. The same applies to toys.

Of course, during maintenance sessions you can use food again to improve some behaviours, but the food should not be a condition for your dog to respond in everyday situations. Use congratulatory words like 'very good!' and caresses and sometimes no reinforcement. That is right, when it has it well learned.

15 Common Mistakes When Training a Dog - 10. Do not remove physical rewards

11. Repeat orders

All trainers with little experience repeat orders excessively at first. Thus, if the dog does not lie they repeat 'lie... lie... lie...' as if with that the dog will take notice. This is normal, but it should not become a habit, because then the order becomes meaningless for the dog.

15 Common Mistakes When Training a Dog - 11. Repeat orders

12. Not enough training

This is very common in those who want to train their dogs on their own. They start well but slowly leave aside the training until they only occasionally train their dogs. In the same way that you cannot learn to play the piano practising only once a month, your dog will never be well trained if you do not train frequently.

15 Common Mistakes When Training a Dog - 12. Not enough training

13. Use mixed styles

It is also very common to borrow training techniques from all places. Instead of helping, this ends up being counter productive because it confuses you and your dog. Take a single reliable reference and pursue it. If you use a dog training manual, follow its techniques. If you take lessons with a professional coach, do not change for techniques you saw on TV.

15 Common Mistakes When Training a Dog - 13. Use mixed styles

14. Do not keep training

Once you have completed a training course, your dog will behave well in certain situations. However, if you cease to continue practising with it it will gradually forget these good habits and replace them with new (or old) bad habits.

The training is not something that ends in a couple of months. It is something that must continue throughout the dog's life, although it becomes easier because the good habits become stronger in the dog.

15 Common Mistakes When Training a Dog - 14. Do not keep training

15. Anticipate your dog's intentions

Do not start a training session without having planned it. Do not wait for your dog to get use to pulling the lead to stop this bad habit.

Overall, think ahead to what might happen and plan your dogs learning. If you wait for things to happen you will not have the capacity to respond adequately. You must properly inform yourself regarding all your dog's stages of life for a proper training.

15 Common Mistakes When Training a Dog - 15. Anticipate your dog's intentions

If you want to read similar articles to 15 Common Mistakes When Training a Dog, we recommend you visit our Basic education category.

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