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We’ve all had bad experiences when it comes to training our pups. For a lot of us, those mistakes can lead to owner frustration. While some puppy behavior can seem precocious and adorable, it’s important to remember that you may not be thinking the same thing when they’re fully-grown. By avoiding the following pitfalls, you and your puppy can begin to set up a very happy home for yourselves:
Lack of Consistency. A lot of people seem to think that you can take a day off from training, but that simply isn’t the case. For a dog to learn a behavior and stick to it, he needs consistency and repetitious behavior from you from day one. It’s easy to think, “Oh, alright, just this one time…” but that one time is all a puppy needs to break the training cycle and wash away all the hard work you both have put in on a specific activity.
Inability to Establish Dominance. Your puppy needs to respect you. If you don’t have your dog’s respect, training is going to be much more difficult. How do you acquire that respect? You have to establish dominance. A common misconception is that you have to seem bigger or stronger than your dog to establish dominance, but that is not the case. You need to be confident in every interaction with them. Puppies are pack animals looking for someone to show them how the world works, so to speak, and they’re looking for that person to be you. By exuding confidence while working and interacting with your dog, they will begin to understand that you are the one in charge in the house, and it will help to curb bad behavior because a puppy never wants to let down their Alpha.
Negativity. “No!” “Bad!” Those seem to be the most common phrases you can hear from dog owners. It’s not that there isn’t a place for negative reinforcement when training, but rather that the window for that kind of thing is so very limited. Dogs are “in the moment” creatures, and if you can catch them in the act, they’ll understand that what they’re doing is wrong. Unfortunately, most of the time the mistake has happened minutes or hours ago, and if you then tell them off about it, they’ll just assume you were mad about what they were just doing as opposed to what they did earlier. In my opinion, the best type of reinforcement with a dog is positivity. It’s possible that a puppy will understand what he did was wrong, but it’s much easier for your little fur ball to understand the simple things he’s doing right. It works two-fold: if you have a happy dog, then chances are he’ll be more inclined to behave, which leads to a happy owner.
Impatience. It’s very easy to get exasperated when your pup tears up your new throw pillow or repeatedly disobeys you. The feeling is totally understandable, and there is hardly a dog owner out there who would say otherwise. That being said, it’s important to remember that they’re learning and need guidance. If you give up on them, what does that tell them about their new home and owner? It’s important to continue teaching your dog “right from wrong.” It will help the dog understand more about the home that they’re living in, and it will also help you work through the issue and hopefully prevent it from happening again in the future.
Thinking of Crates as Cruel. A common thing I’ve noticed with a lot of dog owners is the idea that a dog crate is cruel or used only for punishment. The truth is that dogs—like wolves—are essentially den animals. If you’ve ever found your puppy in a strange place like behind your couch wedged against the wall or under a table, it’s because they feel comfortable in small, den-like places. As long as you’re not locking your dog in its crate for hours and hours on end, there’s no reason to think of letting them sleep or spend time in their crate as cruel. It’s a connection to their animal nature, and if you integrate the crate as part of their training, you will find that both you and your dog will be grateful for its presence in the long run.