25 Most Common Dog Training Mistakes & How to Avoid Them


There are several methods when it comes to training dogs, and sometimes, we get confused about what to do. Whether you are bringing home a puppy or an older dog, you must train them right away. Whether you are teaching from experience, from books, from online sources, or from a course, you might be making mistakes, and you don’t realize it.

Dog Training Mistakes

1.    Training Your Dog for Too Long

It is not ideal to have long training sessions with your dog for many reasons. Your dog will have the tendency to get bored, especially when they are in the puppy or adolescent stage – they typically have short attention spans. Extended sessions will also make you tired. Because if it, you might not be able to fully pay attention to your dog.

What you can do instead is keep the training sessions short – five to fifteen minutes will do. Three 10-minute sessions are more favorable for your dog than one 30-minute session.

2.    Training When You are in a Bad Mood

Training your dog while your mood is terrible is a recipe for disaster. When your dog makes a mistake, the tendency is you will take your anger and frustration out on them. This will significantly affect your training. What you can do instead is wait until your mood improves before starting a training session. You can snuggle with your dog if you wish. This can greatly improve your mood, as well.

3.    Beating the Dead

When your dog doesn’t seem to get something right, don’t keep him doing it over and over again, hoping that they will eventually get it. What you can do instead is if your dog does not get it right over three times in a row, stop. This is because you may not be giving enough information to your dog. If you continue on with it, your dog might get frustrated and just stop trying. As a result, you will lose your patience, as well.

4.    Combining Positive Reinforcement and Correction Methods

It has been proven scientifically that positive reinforcement produces much better results than the correction method. When you combine the two, it will only cause confusion for your dog. Your dog will never know if they are going to be rewarded or punished. As a result, your dog will lose their interest in working or providing behaviors. What you can do instead is just do the positive reinforcement method, as it is better for your dog.

5.    Having Not Enough Practice

This is a huge mistake because it will significantly affect the performance of your dog. When your dog masters a behavior, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to practice it anymore. Most owners take their dogs to obedience class and regularly practice during that time. However, when their dog learns the behavior the owner stops practicing, thinking that the action will stick to their dog’s mind forever. After a few months or so, the owner will be upset because their dog won’t sit or stay – a behavior they haven’t practiced for months. Just like humans, dogs will get rusty when it comes to skills.

Be sure that you practice even after your dog is done training at least once a day, or whenever there is an opportunity. Practicing the behavior will eventually become a habit that they won’t easily forget.

6.    Abusing the Clicker

When using the clicker, there are rules that you should follow. One of the common mistakes of owners is clicking but not rewarding their dog. When you keep making that mistake, the clicker won’t have any value for the dog anymore. Another mistake is clicking more than once for each behavior. If you click many times, your dog will have no idea the event you are marking.

What you can do instead is do your research on how to use the clicker properly. You can ask someone you know that is knowledgeable about the method, or you can search the net for helpful articles and videos about clicker training.

7.    Always Training in the Same Place

Have you wondered why some dogs are well-behaved in their homes, yet they are aggressive anywhere else? One common mistake of dog owners in training their dogs in the same place. Dogs can’t generalize. If you always train your dog to sit in the living room and ask them to sit outside or in the kitchen, they probably won’t do it, or it can take them long to think it through.

If you want your dog to be well-behaved anywhere, make sure to take your training sessions on the road and practice in all sorts of places.

8.    Command Nagging

This is one of the most common mistakes that owners do when training their dogs – repeating cues. For instance, you say sit, but your dog does not respond, then you repeat the word sit again and again. Then you end up wondering why your dog doesn’t respond or react the first time you say the command. When you repeat a command, again and again, you are practically teaching your dog that it is okay not to respond to the 1st, 2nd, or even the 5th time. Instead, you have taught your dog to wait for the fourth or fifth cue before responding.

You only have to say a command once. When your dog doesn’t respond, leave it. Take a few moments then repeat the exercise. Remember that in dog training, consistency is crucial.

9.    Giving Too Many Treats

Giving treats to your dog is a good way to begin the training process. However, giving too many treats is not recommended. When training, treats should be small and won’t make the dog full after each training, or you will end up with a heavy dog. Other than treats, you also have to praise your dog, give them toys, and real-life rewards such as petting or playing with them when they learn a particular behavior.

10.  Waiting Too Long to Begin Training

As soon as your new dog arrives at your home, you have to train them immediately. Don’t wait for days or weeks to start training. Don’t wait for your dog to develop bad habits before you begin training them. Remember that dog training does not equate to behavior management. The goal of dog training is to shape the behavior of your dog and teach them how to appropriately respond to specific commands or phrases.

For young puppies, you should start with house training and basic commands. You will establish a greater bond with your dog as time passes. When your dog grows up, he will become accustomed to the routine. You can then start teaching your dog tricks, and move on to advanced training such as animal-assisted therapy, and agility.

11.  Not Training Your Dog Enough

Training is something that you do consistently. You cannot do it one time and be done with it. Training your dog regularly will give the best results, even after they have mastered a behavior. Choose one behavior to teach your dog at a time and make your training sessions short and productive. You can do this at least 2 to 3 times a week. Seek new and fun things to teach your dog, but don’t forget to revisit the old basics so they won’t forget.

Your dog will never be finished with training. You will always train them, even as they age. Ongoing training will maintain the sharpness of their skills. Make your training sessions fun, as well.

12.  Being Inconsistent

You cannot go training your dog one day, not teach the next, then resume the next day. Consistency is essential in all types of dog training. You will end up confusing your dog if you are inconsistent. You might also reinforce negative behaviors because of this.

For instance, your dog is not allowed on the bed. However, you just let it slide sometimes. When you correct your dog for being on the bed, they won’t comprehend why they are allowed to be there one day and not the next.

Another instance when an owner is being inconsistent is when their dog is rewarded for sort of doing something. For instance, you are training your dog to lie down, then you give them a treat when their whole body is already on the ground. The next day, you gave a reward when your dog’s entire body is not yet on the ground. Your dog will be confused because you are being inconsistent.

13.  Making a “One-Size-Fits-All” Training Approach

Remember that no two dogs are alike. A training method may be effective on one dog but not on another. There are a wide variety of dog training programs and techniques available, and you need to look for several sources and use the information you have gathered, so you can come up with your own dog training program.

You can try out some methods you thing would work on your dog and see what is best for them. You have to be patient and do not be afraid to customize if something is not working.

14.  Being Impatient

Dog training will take time to be successful. Each dog has its own pace. Do not get frustrated or stressed out when your dog is not catching on as you expected. It will make things worse because your dog will also become frustrated.

When you notice that your dog is struggling to learn a behavior, you have to consider whether it is really a good time to train or not. Maybe your sessions are too long. Dogs get bored easily; that’s why training sessions should be kept short. You can also try to break down a behavior into smaller sections and train your dog step-by-step.

If you find yourself feeling impatient, you can check the time. If the session has been long enough or your dog seems disinterested, you can wrap it up. End every session in a positive note.

15.  Getting the Timing Wrong

Your dog won’t have any idea if they have done something you like unless you tell them in a way they can comprehend. This is where timing and positive reinforcement comes in. You can use a clicker or a verbal cue such as “yes” to mark desired behaviors. Remember to follow-up with a reward immediately, so your dog will associate the click or the word “yes” with the reward.

When you give the reward a few seconds late, your dog will associate it with another behavior or action. Positive reinforcement is vital, especially during early training, with the aim of trying to get your dog to associate cues to actions.

Timing is also important when you are trying to correct your dog’s behavior. You have to catch your dog in the act of doing the undesirable behavior for you to correct them. For instance, you saw your puppy doing their business in an area other than their potty spot, you can utter the word “no” or clap once to get their attention, and immediately carry them to the right potty spot. When you weren’t able to catch your dog doing their business, don’t correct them. Just clean up the mess. If you correct your dog seconds or minutes after the undesirable behavior, they will associate it with another behavior.

16.  Hard Discipline

It has been proven that using punishment when it comes to training dogs is not effective. Dogs are likely to perform for rewards with positive reinforcement. Using a mild aversive can also be helpful in certain situations. However, harsh discipline can create dangerous situations. Harsh discipline involves hitting, yelling, staring down, alpha rolls, leash jerking, and grabbing the scruff of the neck. These actions will have consequences:

  • It can provoke aggressive behavior, putting you and the people around you in danger.
  • It may cause fearfulness to your dog.
  • It may cause harm to your dog physically.

If you want to assert dominance over your dog, harsh discipline is not the answer. The training process should be fun for your dog and a way to bond with them.

17.  Calling Your Dog to Come to You for Something that They Find Unpleasant

Every time you do this, you are merely punishing your dog for coming to you. It will ultimately discourage your dog from coming to you when you call them. One of the most crucial things you can teach them is having a reliable recall.

If you need them to do something they don’t really like, such as a nail trim or taking a bath, you can simply go to your dog and get them rather than calling them. If you are mad about something, you have to calm yourself first before giving a command to your dog.

18.  Reinforcing or Building Up the Wrong Behavior

Some owners accidentally reinforce the wrong behaviors of their dogs. For instance, letting your dog inside the house immediately when they bark, comforting or snuggling with your dog when they are frightened, or talking to them harshly when they make a mistake or misbehave.

Dogs love to seek their owner’s attention. Any kind of attention you give to your dog tells them that the current behavior they are doing is good and should be done again. Even negative attention is something to them – better than no attention at all.

When your dog is whining, jumping up on you, or begging, you just simply ignore then until the behavior stops.

If your dog’s undesirable behavior is self-rewarding, like getting into the trash or chewing furniture, ignoring them is not the answer. You can redirect the attention of your dog to a better activity that rewards instead, such as going through training exercises or playing with their toy.

19.  Failing to Proof Your Dog’s Behaviors

When you are proofing a behavior, it means that you are practicing it in various settings with different distractions. Many owners forget about this crucial part of the process of dog training. For instance, when your dog mastered to sit in your bedroom, it only means “putting their bottom on the ground in the bedroom” to them. When you are in the kitchen, the park or yard with other dogs around, the command “sit” might be nothing to your dog. Most dogs take their training literally.

When you are just starting with the training, you can do it first in a controlled and quiet setting. After some time, you can move to various areas with each session, and increasing the number of distractions gradually. Doing this will be of significant help in fine-tuning your dog’s responses to cues or commands.

20.  You Expect Too Much from Your Dog Too Soon

Do not expect your dog to learn fast. Dogs learn at different paces. For instance, just because you have taught your dog to lie down inside the house, does not mean that they will be able to do the same when they are in the park. To get your dog to the next level, you have to build their skills and take it step-by-step.

Once your dog masters a behavior, you can gradually increase the challenge. This will build the ability of your dog to success in more challenging situations over time.

21.  Bribing Your Dog Instead of Training with Rewards

It has been proven with scientific research that the most effective way to train a dog is with a rewards-based method. However, there is a correct and incorrect way to use rewards. One of the largest mistakes is holding a treat that is visible to the dog while asking them to complete a behavior or action.

When your dog already sees what their reward is, they are likely to provide the desired behavior you want them to do. However, without the treat, the behavior will fall apart.

What you can do instead is make the reward appear right after they performed the desirable behavior.

22.  Being Physical with Your Corrections

When you use your physical strength in correcting your dog’s behavior, you can expect an undesirable effect. This method will eventually backfire and may result in a withdrawn or fearful dog.

23.  Overtraining Your Dog

Training your dog far too often will result in burnout. They will feel tired and as a result, will not be interested in what you are teaching them. It is very important that you give your dog time to rest their body and brain.

24.  Feeding Your Dog Human Food

It can be very tempting to give your dog scraps of food from the table while you’re eating a meal. Besides the fact that some human food is harmful to dogs, you will eventually create a canine beggar. When your dog connects your mealtime to getting food, they will start to beg for scraps every time you eat your meal.

25.  Using Too Much Emotion

During dog training, there will be instances when you become frustrated with your dog’s failure and overly elated when they succeed. Remember that it is extremely important not to allow your emotions to show in your verbal cues. For instance, when your dog does something wrong, your instinct might be to get angry and raise your voice. However, showing this kind of emotion will hurt the esteem of your dog and might cause unwanted reactions whenever you are present.

When you respond with too much positivity, your training will somehow be ruined, as well. An elated and high-pitched tone will make the energy levels of your dog skyrocket. An overly excited dog is not the state that is ideal for them to learn new tasks or practice the old ones. The most appropriate tone when training your dog is neutral, calm, and measured.

The Most Essential Skills to Teach Your Dog

House Training

This is the first skill your dog should learn. Once your new dog arrives, you have to start with house training right away. You have to be patient and consistent. Positive reinforcement is always a great method to use.

The most important things you should do when house training your dog are to:

  • Supervise your dog
  • Set a routine
  • Never punish them for “accidents.”
  • Reward them when they get it right

The “Come” Command

It is one of the basic commands that your dog must learn. This command will keep your dog safe in possibly dangerous situations. It is also called “recall training.”

When training your dog to come to you when called, you can begin on leash in a place where it’s quiet. Give the command “come” only once, and you have to be enthusiastic. You should also keep your body language open and relaxed. Make sure your dog enjoys coming to you every time.

The “Stay” Command

This command will teach your dog all about self-control. You can start up close and then place your dog in a down or sit position. Hold your hand out and say “stay.” Increase the distance from your dog as well as the duration before they are to be released. You can also introduce distractions so you can test their resolve.

The “Leave It” Command

The ‘leave it” command is also vital to keep your dog safe. It is especially useful when they are trying to pick up or swallow something or when there is another dog that is growling at them. It is a skill that will take consistency and time to master, so be patient. Take it step-by-step.

For you to teach your dog the “leave it” command, you can start by showing your dog a treat, then say “leave it,” then you can place the treat under your shoe. Your dog will attempt to get the treat. They will sniff on it, lick it, or paw at your foot. When they give up trying, you can immediately say “yes” or use the clicker and give them a treat. Don’t give the treat from under your shoe.

You will see that your dog may go back to around your foot and start sniffing. As soon as they stop and look away, you can also mark the behavior with a click or “yes,” then give a reward.

The “Sit” Command

The “sit” command is very useful in several situations, and it is often the first command that dogs learn. Dogs sit on their own, and all you have to do is associate the behavior to the command.

When your dog is standing, hold a treat and place your hand in front of their nose. Raise your hand gradually to the back of your dog’s head. Their butt will go down as they follow the treat up. Say “yes” or click once your dog’s butt hits the floor then give them the treat.

Related Question

Can I ask a friend or a family member to train my dog if I am away?

If there will be instances when you will be away, it is recommended that you use the clicker. Your dog may be confused when they hear a different voice commanding them. A clicker is more neutral. You also have to make sure that you endorse your friend or relative all they need to know. You can leave notes to be their guide in training your dog while you are away.

Final Thoughts

I hope this article is able to help you improve your dog training method. Whether you are planning to get a new puppy, or already have a dog that you want to train, keep in mind that you have to be consistent on a daily basis. If you a well-behaved pooch, you have to be committed to training them.

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