5 Common Mistakes When Training A Puppy (And How To Avoid Them)
When it comes to dog training, the amount of information available online is overwhelming. Everyone is talking, everyone is sharing an opinion or a training method, but it’s time to also talk about the most common dog training mistakes.
Humans have been training animals for thousands of years, and not only dogs. Horses, cats, dolphins and even chickens can be trained to learn certain behaviours, but it all stands in the trainer’s will to do so.
It doesn’t matter if you have a few years of experience, or if you’re just starting with dog training, there are a few small mistakes that can be a complete game-changer as soon as you identify them.
1. You Are Not Consistent
The most important part of dog training is consistency. Because dogs like to have schedules and routines, it’s important that you stick to your usual training times and methods. Even changing the treats can have an impact on your training performance.
When you decide that you are going to start training your dog, you need to choose everything upfront. When will you be training? For how long will you be training? What kinds of treats will you use?
If you start by having a one-hour training session a week and then switch to 15 minutes every day, your dog is going to be confused and won’t really understand what’s happening. Choose the best times for you and your dog will adapt!
If you decide that you are going to have a 15-minutes training session every day in the morning, followed by breakfast, then you should stay consistent with that!
2. The Training Sessions Are Too Long (Or Too Short)
The length of the training sessions should be exactly how your dog can focus on training. If a puppy won’t be able to stay with you for more than 5 to 10 minutes, with an adult dog you can probably push it to 15 to 20 minutes.
Of course, that’s not a general rule, and you can test your dog to see for how long he will stay motivated. This also depends on the treats you use.
Why is the length of a training session important? Well, the principle is very simple. Your dog can understand the difference between a schedule and a random act of affection. If your training sessions are too short, he may confuse them with one of those random acts of affection and won’t pay attention to anything else. He will believe that you’re having fun and giving him attention.
On the other hand, if your training sessions are too long, he won’t be able to focus on the behaviour until the end. This means that no matter how hard you try, in the end, the session will be very unproductive.
Of course, you should also practice between the training sessions, but that will only work as long as your dog already knows the cue and behaviour. You can’t ask your dog to stay if you have never practised it before.
3. Using Low-Value Rewards
Without a doubt, rewards are the most important part of dog training. Be it delicious treats or special toys, you need to figure out what really motivates your dog.
In order to figure out what kind of rewards you should buy for your dog, you should see what he’s more curious about. Is he the type that will bring home the best sticks, or the type that can’t wait for you to drop some food from your plate?
This is one of the most important clues you need to keep an eye for when thinking about choosing his treats.
Of course, you will find low-value treats and high-value treats. That’s not about how much you pay for them, but about their value in your dog’s eyes. The most expensive dog kibble won’t stand a change in front of some delicious air-dried sausages, and it’s completely understandable.
In general, the low-value treats are the ones your dog usually has access to every day. It can be dog kibble or dry, hard to chew treats, and your dog may not be very interested in them.
High-value treats, on the other hand, are the ones your dog can’t wait to get his paws on. Starting with little pieces of chicken, to gourmet chicken sausages and mini roasted bones which you can throw at the end of a very productive training session, your dog will stay motivated and will look forward to more training!
Of course, not all dogs are the same. While some will prefer tasty treats, others will enjoy a long walk after you’re done training. You will figure in no time what your dog prefers and you will be able to choose the appropriate treats!
4. You Are Repeating The Cues
Even though it doesn’t seem like a big problem, repeating the cues is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. As we also mentioned in our dog training guide, it’s important that your dog first understands what a cue does before actually performing the command.
When you are repeating the cues more than one time, your dog teaches that it’s perfectly fine if he doesn’t listen from the first try, and that’s something you need to avoid.
If you’re using a clicker to train your dog, you probably know that in the beginning, you shouldn’t use any cues. He first learns to do the behaviour, and then you associate the word with it. If you’re just using treats, you will want to make sure your dog understands the cue. It’s very easy to verify that, as whenever you say a command, your dog should perform it.
On the same note, you need to be very careful about cue poisoning. This happens when you usually ask your dog to perform a command he associates with something unpleasant. Like asking him to sit in order to trim his nails, or asking him to come in his crate before going to the vet.
What you can do instead? Associate any potentially unpleasant activity, such as bath time, going to the vet or nail trimming with something he likes. Be it a toy, treat or walk. It can be exhausting at first, but in time, it will become a part of your routine and you’ll both have a wonderful time!
5. Moving Too Fast
It would be a dream to have our dogs learn a behaviour from the first try, but that never really happens. Training is a continuous process that takes a lot of time, patience and consistency, and all because we all want our dogs to behave, no matter where we are.
You need to take the time and make sure every behaviour is perfectly learned before moving on to the next one. You won’t want your dog to only sit in your backyard where nothing can distract him. You need him to sit no matter where you are, regardless of the environment, and that’s what takes the most time.
In our dog training guide, you can see more about raising the criteria. This means that after your dog learns to sit for one minute in your backyard, with no distractions, he will need to learn how to sit in a crowded park for one second, and this is part of the process.
What can you do? Take your time and teach your dog everything he needs to know. It can take up to one year for a dog to be fully trained, but it’s one of the most amazing achievements. To be able to go to the dog park, and have your dog ‘heel’ until you let him go and play, or to have him wait patiently until you prepare his food.
Without a doubt, dog training is a long process and in order to succeed, you need to learn how to deal with these 5 common mistakes when training a puppy!