7 common mistakes pet parents make while training their dogs
Is your dog misbehaving with you and others? Here are the most common training mistakes every pet parent must take note of.
Cases of aggression in pets have been on the rise and to curb the behavioural problems in them it's important to train them right. Pet parents adore their furry babies and want the best for them but at times they unwittingly make training mistakes that could mould them incorrectly. Many studies show that training based on punishment or confrontation could lead to fear, avoidance, and increased aggression in dogs. Positive reinforcement is a much effective technique and can also make the bond between the pet and their parent stronger. (Also read: Google Year in Search 2022: Most searched pets around the world)
"Welcoming a new furry family member is a beautiful feeling. It’s also a challenging one as both you and your pet adjust to a number of changes. If you’re one of those who can’t wait to begin teaching your puppy all kinds of tricks, here’s what you need to know. While training their puppies, pet parents frequently make blunders. It’s only human, after all!" says Ashish Anthony, founder of Just Dogs, a K9 specialist certified from the Police Dog Center, Holland.
“Training is very important for dogs as it's a means of communication. The “when” is very necessary for the dog and therefore every pet parent must take training very seriously as its essential for the harmonious co-existence of the humans and dogs," says Ashish.
He shares the most common training mistakes, which every pet parent must make note of.
1. Use corrective measures vs. positive reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is a far superior training strategy than concentrating on the negative. Using punishment and dominance to train your dog might lead to a variety of potential future behavioural issues. Additionally, it is more challenging for your dog to understand whether they will receive positive or negative reinforcement if you combine the two. Recognize your dog's behaviour ahead of time and stay prepared with the course of action.
“Puppies and older dogs experience training differently. You instruct the pups/dogs in a certain way so that mistakes are prevented. I never raise my dog above ground level while training them. I make sure that everything they want is available on the ground. It's advisable to approach your dog rather than the other way around. When you wish to interact with the dog, you do it on your level. The dog will ultimately stop invading your space when you are seated and working on something else since he will realize that you don't want to interact at that time. Begin a task that they wish only after all the rules are being followed. For example, if you want your dog to walk on the left, the walk doesn't begin until she comes on the left side. For adult dogs, whenever a scenario or a place changes or pet parents change, it's a very good opportunity for you to change the way you behave with your dog because your dog will always want to engage with you," says the pet specialist.
2. Not teaching proper leash etiquette
Dogs who pull and strain while being led by their parents rather than the other way around— we've all seen them. There are some folks who wait too long to walk their dog on a leash.
"It is always on the basis of whether you are going out for a walk with your dog or you are going to take the dog out for a walk. These are two different instances altogether; because if you are going to take him out for a walk, then he is going for a walk and he's going to put you on the leash. But if you are going on a walk with your dog, then you are going to keep engaging with him. He will enjoy engaging with you and as long as that is there, he will focus on the activity at hand. Most importantly, if you don't want to use a leash then always carry a treat with you in your hand, in which you normally hold the leash, and the dog will follow it as he will be smelling your hand. Give him the treat once you return home or arrive at the destination, this way he will know that you will always treat him if he is obedient,” says Ashish.
3. Letting them chew random objects
It’s not a good idea to leave expensive objects around especially when you have a pup at home. Although puppies don't know any better, if you have a chewer who is extremely aggressive, you may want to consider why.
“When you look at cats, they have a habit of pawing and sharpening their nails or flaunting their size to other cats with the context of being dominant. When you consider dogs, it's necessary to give them the right object to chew to exercise their jaws or else they will chew anything that comes in their vicinity. Dogs will almost always find something to chew on if you don't address or divert chewing, whether it's shoes, carpets, or even chair legs. Always ensure that your dog is focused on an activity," says Ashish, while adding on a lighter note, “most dogs at home are working dogs. If you do not give them employment then they will find ways to keep themselves busy... if he likes to be a cobbler he will do what he has to do with your shoe!”
4. Repeating commands
People who are just starting out with dog training frequently experience this. When given a command it is vital that your dog obeys it because certain commands are life-saving. There are very few commands that your dog needs to follow regularly, such as “stop”, “sit” or “drop it”.
Ashish suggests that if a command is given it is important to ensure it is executed. If the pet ignores it then don’t give the order again. Take them somewhere else and give it another shot. It’s important to retrain and relearn until you obtain a response.
“When I train my dog and I command him to 'come'; if he doesn't obey my command I walk out and I make sure he is next to me. As the command 'come' needs to be processed by the dog that he needs to go to his parent once he is commanded. We need to be proactive and make sure that the command is delivered and executed well," says the pet expert.
5. Relying heavily on treats
Treats are fantastic if your dog is driven by food, and they work particularly well in the beginning. However, be sure to mix up your incentives by using play, toys, or praise. If you depend too much on rewards, your dog could only behave as you want when you have food nearby. Make sure your dog can respond to praise and connect your approval with incentives because chances are that you won't always have dog food in your pocket.
"A reward is mandated after a dog obeys your command. A reward must not always be a treat, it can be a praise too. The biggest reward for your dog is your engagement. As the rewards may differ for different dogs but always reward your dog for a better relationship," says Ashish.
6. Unintentionally fostering bad behaviour
Most likely, you're not even aware of it. You may encourage undesirable behaviours like leaping, whining, pawing, or begging, much like you might reinforce frightened behaviour. A dog that jumps when touched or petted will learn to jump again in the future in order to get your attention. Dogs that paw at humans or whine or growl at them to attract their attention are in the same boat. And if you give it to a beggar dog at the dining room door, you can be sure he'll continue to beg for food in the future!
According to Ashish, "Be clear on what constitutes bad behaviour. If your dog jumps on your guest or you once you enter the house it’s bad behaviour, it needs to be corrected. For instance, the dog is chewing your hand - command the dog by saying “NO”, say No and give him a toy to chew so this ensures your dog understands that chewing hands is a form of bad behaviour but chewing the toy is right."
7. Not focusing on your dog
Focus only on your dog if you're serious about training her. Put the phone down and spend an hour at home with your young fur baby, who also wants your attention. Dog training is a significant time commitment, and if you check your texts in the midst of a session, your dog will notice. Unless you are focused, the dog will not reciprocate the most basic principle.
“Take your dog for a walk for his cleanliness, when he is passing urine or motion, be focused on your dog. You want him to complete his task, stand there like the idlest person and he will complete his business and then walk him out. Don't go back home immediately, walk him around as the dog needs to understand that as a reward for doing his business you have taken him out for a walk. After a few such instances you might notice that if you don’t take your dog out for a walk, he might control himself. This is why it is important to reinforce until your dog understands that he is taken out for a walk and rewarded accordingly after he has finished relieving himself," says Ashish.