Dog Training



Monday, November 06, 2006

Do You Make These 7 Common Dog or Puppy Training Mistakes?

Do you make these 7 dog training mistakes? Find out the 7 common mistakes most people make which lead to dog training failure - an untrained dog who won't listen to your commands or learn any manners. These dogs are a pain to live with, but it's NOT their fault! It is simply because their owners weren't ever told about these 7 dog training mistakes. Don't let it be you, find out these 7 dog training mistakes now...

1. Failing to reinforce the behavior you want

Dogs do what works for them. If they don't get something out of it, they won't do it. So it makes sense to make what works for them, also work for you! When you see behavior you like, reward it! That way, it works for your dog and works for you. It's a win-win situation.

2. Relying solely on punishment to stop behavior you don't want

Punishment is defined by a decrease in behavior. Sounds good, right? If you have a behavior you don't want, then the theory suggests that you can simply punish it and it will go away. But, what do you get instead? You see, dogs do what works for them. They need outlets for their energy and drives. By simply removing one outlet, you are really just encouraging them to find some other outlet and you have very little control over what they find to do instead. Instead, try thinking of alternative behaviors and rewarding them for those behaviors instead. Remember, dogs do what works for them (see mistake #1).

3. Repeating commands

Want to know how to teach your dog to ignore commands or cues? Simply keep repeating them! If your dog doesn't respond to a cue, it's because there are too many distractions in the environment for the level of training you are at, or what you are asking is too difficult right now. It's not the dog's fault - it's the laws of learning. By repeating the cue, you simply attach no meaning to it. Even when there are no distractions, your dog is less likely to respond to that command.

4. Not setting your dog up to succeed

In order to get more of a behavior, it needs to be reinforced. In order to reinforce behavior, you need to get it in the first place. In order to get it in the first place, you need to set your dog up to succeed. If your dog is failing to respond to a command, you can either:

a. lower your expectations, e.g a shorter stay, or come when called on leash rather than off leash

b. remove distractions from the environment, e.g if you have two puppies, take one puppy out of the room.

c. move your dog to a less distracting environment, e.g move from the busiest area of the dog park to a quieter area at the other end of the park.

5. Training for too long

Did you know that you really only need to train for 5 to 10 minutes at a time? Even a 2 minute training session will be more valuable than a 20 minute training session. Dogs, and in particular, puppies, start to lose interest or start to fatigue after a short time and work below their best. If you are reinforcing this "below their best" behavior, then that's what you will get more of. Therefore, it makes sense to have shorter training sessions. You can have several of these shorter training sessions in a day.

6. Paying attention to unwanted behavior

Remember mistake #1? We discovered that dogs do what works for them. Any behavior that is repeated has been reinforced. It may be self-reinforcing, but more often someone or some thing is reinforcing that behavior. The most common mistake is for owners to pay attention to the behavior they don't want, which can reinforce that very behavior. Imagine your dog is scratching at the door to be let in, if you were to yell "cut it out", or worse, let your dog inside at that point, then you will more than likely get more of this unwanted 'scratching at the door' behavior. By completely ignoring this behavior, then waiting until it stops before paying attention, you end up reinforcing a much better behavior.

7. Punishing a dog who doesn't come when called

This is one I see time and time again, dogs who are not effectively trained to come when called being punished when they do finally return to their owners. Why would a dog want to come back for a scolding? Even if your dog has totally ignored you for the last 10 minutes, it's far better to reward him for finally coming back than to punish him for it. Even better not to put him in a situation where he can fail, remember mistake #4?

Only ask a dog to come when you are 80% sure he will. If you're not at least 80% sure, well, see mistake #3! Only let your dog off leash in safe areas where you can afford to wait if he doesn't come when called. If you aren't 80% sure he will come, wait until you are. Wait for a quieter time, maybe he has been playing with another dog and the other dog leaves, maybe he has been following a scent and then finally gets bored with it. At that point, start walking away, then try calling. Always reward your dog for coming when called.

By avoiding these 7 common dog training mistakes, you will be well on your way to having a happy and well behaved dog.

Aidan Bindoff is Editor of http://www.PositivePetzine.com, a free resource for people training their own dog. Each edition is packed with helpful tips for training your dog using the latest pet-friendly methods that work fast and don't require a degree in animal behavior to use. PLUS, check out the huge archive of useful articles on just about every dog training topic you can think of!

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