Common Puppy Training Mistakes

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. October 5, 2021
Common Puppy Training Mistakes

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Any dog guardian should understand the responsibility of a dog's care long before they have made the step to adopt one. The care needs of each dog varies according to their individual circumstance. Importantly, a puppy will have different training needs compared to educating an adult dog. With the best will in the world, if we do not know the puppy's needs before training, it is easy to make mistakes. For this reason, it is very important we know both what we should and what we shouldn't do when training a puppy.

AnimalWised helps us to make these considerations with our list of 8 common puppy training mistakes dog guardians can make. Check them out whether or not you have already started to train your puppy.

1. Weaning the puppy prematurely

Weaning is the process a mother undergoes when moving the puppies on from her milk to solid foods. She knows the best time for her puppies to be weaned, usually starting at 1 month of age and finishing at about the 2 month stage. Interrupting this process unnecessarily is a grave error. The reason is because of the negative physical and behavioral effects this can have on the puppies.

The reason why the natural weaning period is not respected is often due to impatient breeders. Whether they want to sell a puppy quickly or they simply want their responsibility out of their hands, many people remove the puppy from their mother and siblings too soon.

Although there are health reasons why a puppy may need to be removed early, in the cases of healthy dogs staying with the mother will help them to learn core skills, begin socialization and feel emotionally cared for. When weaned too early, the puppies can lack certain skills and develop problems relating to other dogs and even people. It also has negative consequences on their immune system which can predispose them to certain health problems.

Read our related article to learn more about what to expect if a puppy is prematurely weaned.

Common Puppy Training Mistakes - 1. Weaning the puppy prematurely

2. Disturbing their sleep

When we adopt a puppy into our home, it is inhuman to disregard their cuteness. However, this doesn't mean they are merely a plaything. As living creatures with their own needs, disturbing a puppy while they are sleeping can be detrimental to their development.

Due to their age, puppies are very vulnerable. Their bodies are going through constant changes which requires energy. Food provides their energy and sleep helps to restore it. If we wake puppies up because we want to play, show them off or interact in any way, it will deplete their reserves, harm their development and make them vulnerable due to the potential negative effects it will have on their immune system.

Up to 3 months of age, puppies will sleep between 18 and 20 hours per day. We will need to play with and educate the puppies, but we respect their sleep and minimize interactions during this time.

3. Humanizing the puppy

Human babies need constant contact with their mothers. This is why it is important to keep them close when breastfeeding and hold them for bonding purposes. Puppies are not babies. They do not require being cradled or treated in the same way as babies.

When we do cradle a puppy, we turn them upside down in a way which can make them feel very uncomfortable. If we cradled them up high, we can also cause them to be scared because they don't understand why they are so far off the ground.

Another mistake related to humanization of dogs is sleeping in the same bed. While there are situations where dogs can sleep next to their guardians without a problem, many choose not to let the dog sleep with them for practical and health reasons. If we don't want our dog to sleep with us as an adult, then we shouldn't let them when they are a puppy.

4. Feeding them when we eat

It is likely that most dog guardians have given their food to their canine during a meal. Their imploring eyes make us give in to them easily and we often don't see the harm in doing so.

Unfortunately, feeding dogs at the table or when we eat can disturb the dog's all-important feeding routines. We should be careful with what we feed them, so giving them human food can provide poor nutrition. It can also affect how they respond to their own food as some dogs will refuse certain commercial food if allowed too much human food.

When we feed puppies from the table, this can be particularly damaging. It promotes obesity and can harm their development if they get the wrong nutrition. Since human food often has preservatives, salt, sugar, fats and other nutrients a dog should not ingest, it can make them more prone to dietary diseases later in life.

Common Puppy Training Mistakes - 4. Feeding them when we eat

5. Scolding and punishing puppies

Related to treating them like humans, castigating puppies for actions we perceive as wrong can be very damaging. This is a type of dog training known as negative reinforcement. The idea is that by providing a negative experience when they do something wrong, they will stop doing it in the future. It is one of the biggest mistakes we can make when training a puppy.

One reason why negative reinforcement is wrong is because they don't always know why they are being punished. Although we speak to them when we scold them, they will not always be able to associate the action with the punishment, especially when it happens after the fact. Additionally, it can simply cause the puppy trauma which can lead to behavioral problems.

Instead of negative reinforcement, we should use positive reinforcement. When we prompt them to do something, we should give them an award. We will be clear the treat is related to the prompt and the dog will want to do it in the future because it provides pleasure, not because they are scared.

6. Inadequate socialization

The socialization period for puppies is essential to their development. If we want them to have a balanced character and be able to interact in a positive way with others, we need to ensure their first interactions are positive experiences. This is the same when meeting dogs, other animals, people and different environments.

Not only is a lack of socialization a mistake when training puppies, doing it incorrectly can be counterproductive. If we don't introduce puppies gradually and carefully, they can have traumatic experiences which harm them in the future.

In addition to being cautious around other people or animals, poorly socialized puppies can develop anxiety problems. In cases where the socialization is very poor, it can lead to the puppy becoming aggressive later in life due to fear of the unknown. At the very least they will have poor communication with others.

Take a look at our article on socializing puppies and dogs to know more about what to expect.

Common Puppy Training Mistakes - 6. Inadequate socialization

7. Not teaching boundaries

One of the common mistakes when educating a puppy is not setting the correct boundaries. Since canines and humans do not communicate in the same way, we need patience when it comes to their training. In this way, we can teach them what they are not to chew on, places they shouldn't go, actions they shouldn't take, etc.

Although the dog will not have bad intentions, neglecting this boundary setting will lead to problems. They can bark inappropriately, be too aggressive when playing or exhibit various behavioral problems.

Common Puppy Training Mistakes - 7. Not teaching boundaries

8. neglect basic training

We can often get overexcited and want to train our puppy to any number of tricks. However, sometimes this excitement can lead us to neglect the basics. It is these basic dog commands which not only help the dog to better understand their training, but it also helps to keep them safe from danger. For example, training a dog to stay can help them when near a busy road.

Spending the time to teach a puppy basic commands is important. It is also important to reinforce these basic commands throughout their lives. If we don't test them out, then it is possible the dog will not remember them in the future.

If you want to read similar articles to Common Puppy Training Mistakes, we recommend you visit our Basic education category.

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