Common dog training errors

Effective dog training is based on establishing behavioral patterns with the tools of correction and reward. Many dog-owners use small bits of food or training treats, but praise or the opportunity to play with you or a favorite toy can also be used as a reward. Although most people understand this training base, they fail to recognize errors which may deter your dog’s success. The next time you engage in a training session with your pet, keep the following list of common errors in mind to avoid training blunders and ensure your dog’s eventual success.

1. A common misconception is that dogs are inherently aware of the meaning of praise. Unfortunately, dogs have to be taught to understand praise from their owners, and rewards alike. If you give the dog a treat while verbally praising him, he will learn that praise in itself is a good thing, and eventually treats will become unnecessary.

2. Correction not punishment. Correcting your dog’s undesired behavior is based on giving your dog an alternative method to engage in instinctual behavior. Never be harsh or angry when correcting his actions, and avoid spanking or physical punishment for bad behavior. Instead, use alternative methods to distract your dog from his current behavior and induce a calm, submissive state where he can react to your guidance accordingly.

3. Lack of exercise. Exercise is crucial to establishing a happy, healthy, balanced lifestyle for your dog. Remember that your dog should be well-exercised, typically through a lengthy walk, before you attempt any training. Dogs with excess energy due to lack of exercise will be harder to train as they will be more prone to dispelling this energy rather than focusing on your instruction.

4. Inconsistency. Many people feel that a couple of training sessions sporadically will teach their dogs to be well-behaved. This is not the case. Training is progressive and it is crucial to remain consistent. Use the same word choice for commands and do not alternate. Dogs do not have an understanding of synonyms, so if you use “Heel” to mean “Come” stick with “Heel” throughout your training.

5. Avoid doing too much, too soon. Remember that you must build gradually with training. If you try to force your dog to achieve training goals that he is developmentally incapable of achieving, he will never reach success. Never let your dog end a training session feeling anything less than rewarded. If your dog is having trouble learning commands, end your training session with something that he or she has already learned, and give him plenty of praise for success and good behavior.

Remember that training a dog can be tedious and time-consuming. Be sure to set aside adequate time for these one-on-one dog and owner training sessions, and most importantly, be patient. Like humans, dogs require time to develop good habits and replace old, bad behaviors.

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