So you have a dog? Make sure you're not making these common mistakes!
1. Purchasing Too Many Products Too Soon
As you may know, I specialize in puppy obedience training. I find that my friends and most of the people I work with purchase the wrong dog products and/or purchase the right products but too soon in the dogs life. This is usually due to their excitement of a new puppy or they are not educated enough on dog products.
A great example of this is purchasing a nice dog bed as soon as you bring your puppy home. Most likely, the puppy will chew up the bed within the first week and you’ve wasted $60-$80. Instead, I recommend to use an old towel until you can trust your dog to not chew up their bed. It is only when you can trust your dog that I recommend buying a nice bed for
them. Don't worry, most puppies and adult dogs do just fine without a nice bed in their kennel.
Another example of this is purchasing a collar that is too loose even on the tightest setting. Most people purchase a collar for their dog that is too large which allows their dog to easily slip out of it. This is a major safety issue when the dogs go outside on a leash. Another thing I see often is people buy an expensive collar which is usually too loose initially but becomes too small before the dog is fully grown. I recommend to buy a cheaper collar and then purchase a nice collar once the dog is fully grown.
2. Using Commands for Bad Things
There are many times when dog owners use the wrong words when they’re asking their dog to do something and they wonder why their dog won’t listen to them. The two biggest commands for this is using their name and recall.
I find a lot of owners who use their dog’s name when they want them to stop doing something. This is a big no-no. You want your dog’s name to mean "pay attention to me I’m gonna ask you to do some thing". You do not want their name to mean something negative. When you use their name as a correction, the dog learns to not pay attention when they hear their name because they know they’re going to get in trouble. This leads to your dog not listening to you at all. Try asking for an "uh-uh or no when your dog is doing a bad behavior.
The second big command is recall or ‘come’. Dog owners usually call their dogs to them for every situation whether it’s a good situation or a bad situation. In the beginning of training, it’s so important that you only use good situations to call your dog to you. For example, it is incorrect to call your dog to you and then correct them when they potty in the house. This teaches your dog that when you call them to you, they are going to get in trouble. The correct way to handle this situation is to go grab your dog and then bring them back to the potty and correct it. Make sure that you’re only calling your dog to you when they will receive something positive at the end when first teaching recall. As your dog understands this command, you can call them to you in most all situations such as calling them away from another dog or to come in the house.
3. Allowing Your Dog To Get Away With Bad Behavior
Most people don’t realize this but you’re training your dog every second of their life. You are always training them to do something good or something bad whether its intentional or not. For example, when your dog gets away with having bad behavior, it is actually teaching them that behavior is acceptable. The correct way to do this is to prevent and/or correct the bad behavior and praise the good behavior. Don’t let your dog get away with the bad behavior or it will become a habit!
4. Creating Anxiety
Did you know that you could be (and most likely are) creating your dogs separation anxiety? When you leave your dog, if you say goodbye to them and give them lots of pets and tell them that it will be okay, you are essentially telling them that being apart is a really big deal. They also learn through this behavior that they should be nervous every time you leave them. It’s the exact same thing for when you greet them after being gone. If you make a big deal out of it like, ‘oh my gosh I missed you so much’, the dog will once again realize that being apart from each other is a big deal.
How to correctly handle these situations is to say goodbye five minutes before you leave and then not saying a thing when you leave. It’s the exact same for when you get home. Don’t say hello for the first five minutes and after that time, you can pet them and say hello. This will separate the dramatic hello and goodbye with the time that you leave.
Another way you might be causing your dog’s anxiety is when you go somewhere that they are anxious and you pet them (the vet, dog park or groomers). As humans we do this to tell our dogs that there’s no need to be afraid or anxious and that they’re safe. But in a dog's mind when we do this, we are telling them that their feelings are acceptable and they need to continue feeling that way. For example, if you go to a vet office and your dog is shaking in your arms, if you pet them they will get more anxious because they realize that this is a situation they need to be anxious about. But, if you just hold them in your arms and don’t pat them and say in an upbeat voice, ‘there’s nothing to be afraid of, it’s okay’, this should decrease their anxiety. I like to teach my dogs to be independent and learn to work through their feelings.
5. Using Physical Praise Over Verbal Praise When Training
I found that a lot of the times when I train people, they don’t realize that their verbal praise means so much to their dog. I call it vocal petting. Most dog owners like to praise their dog for doing good by reaching down and petting their dog but this makes their dog jump out of the command. It’s because there’s too much energy that the dog is receiving and their mind can’t hold them in that command. The correct way to do this to keep your dog in the command is to praise them with just your voice. This should help decrease the amount of energy that you are giving to your dog and it will help them hold their command longer. Sometimes even saying "good sit or down" is too much energy for dogs. If this is the case, say it in a very calm and soft voice.
In addition to this, you don’t need to get in your dog's face to talk to them. Your dog can hear you! A dog's hearing is much better than ours. Even if you have a small dog who’s head is barely above your ankles, they can still hear you if you are standing straight up.
Eliminating these mistakes will benefit your dog through developing better communication between you two, preventing bad behavior and building their confidence in themselves. It will also benefit your bank account by saving money on dog products and anxiety medication. Don't forget, it takes hard work to be a good dog owner and everyone makes mistakes, even professionals. If you are making some of these common mistakes, start by slowly working on fixing one mistake at a time. Make sure not to overwhelm yourself or your dog. Remember: it's never too late to change your dog's behavior or train your dog!