Posts Tagged ‘mistakes’

Ten Dog Training Mistakes I Make

May 25, 2013
Pierson on a Leash with Look Command

Teaching the ‘look’ command to get my dog Pierson’s attention when we see other dogs.

I read a great article some time back from Modern Dog Magazine. It listed ten dog training mistakes that people make. These mistakes are easy to fall into, and oftentimes we don’t even realize we are doing them. But once you recognize them, you can easily remedy them. I have listed the top ten below and also noted how I personally make those mistakes with Maya and Pierson.

1. I don’t train my dogs often enough. I tend to get lazy in winter when it comes to walking the dogs. As a result, every spring I have to start over with how to walk on a leash without pulling and with dealing with leash reactiveness with other dogs.

2. I sometimes repeat commands. I’m not supposed to say ‘sit’ more than once. Maya and Pierson should sit immediately after I give them the command. Otherwise, they learn they don’t have to sit unless I say it more than once. Honestly, I don’t make this mistake often in regular circumstances. But when we are in public and their attention is diverted, I find that I repeat myself. To overcome this mistake, I really need to work with Maya and Pierson regularly and in various situations – not just at home where it is quiet.

3. My training sessions run too long or too short. Actually, I think we’re fine on this. Our training sessions are generally short, but frequent. I make sure all training sessions end with success and I don’t drag out training to the point where it is no longer fun. Three sessions a day each lasting three minutes has worked perfectly for Maya and Pierson.

4. My dogs’ obedience behaviors are not generalized to varying conditions. This is what I meant when I talked about how I have to repeat commands in public situations.

5. I rely too much on treats and not enough on praise. Actually, this is another one that I don’t really have trouble with. Both Maya and Pierson have a number of commands they obey without having to be bribed with treats. For example, they obey the ‘play dead’ trick specifically for the belly rubs. Also, Pierson’s ‘speak’ command was taught exclusively for a praise reward.

6. I use too much emotion. No, I don’t get irritated or angry during training sessions. But sometimes I can go over the top with praise, especially in the beginning stages of training. Sometimes, this excites Maya to the point that she is no longer able to focus.

7. I am reactive, not proactive. I should have been working with Maya and Pierson on their leash walking and leash reactiveness before I started having problems. I should have been worked on their training at home before slowly introducing them to public situations. Since I didn’t, bad habits developed and now I have to work harder to overcome difficult behaviors.

8. I am inconsistent. This goes hand-in-hand with number one where I don’t train my dogs often enough. When I am teaching a new command and trick, I am generally consistent to the point that they master it. Then I follow up every now and then to make sure they still remember. But I have not applied that same consistency with leash walking and leash reactiveness.

9. I lack confidence. Actually, I don’t think this one applies to me. I think I am pretty good at training when I put my effort into it. I know my own shortcomings, with the biggest being that I put off working on training aspects that I find the most difficult and time consuming (leash walking and leash reactiveness).

10. I don’t train to the individual dog. Actually, I don’t make this mistake either. At least I don’t any more. I used to train Sephi and Maya together. But after I got Pierson, I realized that training them to walk on a leash properly was a lot more difficult if I walked them both at the same time. So now, I walk them each separately. If I take them out to a public setting, I seldom take both of them at the same time. Even with fun training, I try to keep them separate. When I was teaching Pierson agility, I had Maya sit and stay while I worked with him for a minute or so. Then I had Pierson sit and stay while I worked with Maya on different tricks. This technique works really well since both got to practice their sit and stay in a situation where it was very tempting not to stay.

Even though I think I am relatively good at dog training, I am far from perfect. I am like a lot of other people out there with dogs in that I make mistakes too. It’s okay if we make mistakes, so long as we try to learn from them. What about you? Do you make any of these training mistakes with your dogs? Don’t be afraid to speak up. No one here will criticize you. 🙂

Top ten mistakes borrowed from the Modern Dog Magazine. Click for more info.