Training your dog has a lot to do with understanding how they think. Dog behaviorist Tamar Geller offers insight into your dog's mind and shares some training tips.
Dog training mistakes are really human mistakes. Don't be so surprised! Many dog owners make mistakes unbeknownst to them — due to bad advice, reading something somewhere, because that’s how they did it with the family dog when they were growing up, or even as behavior they’re not even aware they’re doing. Then frustration sets in when puppies “have accidents” in the house, or grown dogs won’t come when called or jump on people for attention, but these and other problems are not the fault of the dog. Regardless of which specific dog training program you choose to adopt, here are a few common pitfalls that, if avoided, will make the training process far more effective, enjoyable and fun for both of you!
Calling your dog and then, when he comes to you, “punishing” him or doing something he doesn’t like. Your dog is having tons of fun in the dog park — you call and he comes to you — and you reward his behavior by putting him on a leash and taking him home. Or he’s in the yard having fun, you call him to come in and when he does, you start to clean his ears, cut his nails or brush his teeth. Is it any wonder your dog no longer comes when called?
While your dog is having fun playing, periodically call him to you, give him “refreshments” and then say, “Go play!” Remember that in the teaching phase, you’re building trust with your dog. By doing this a few times, your dog will learn to love to come to you when he hears his name and won’t be worried that the fun is ending.
Sticking your dog’s nose in his messes to correct his housebreaking “mistakes.” Bad move. You don’t actually have a problem with your dog “going,” you just have a problem with the location. Sticking his nose in it or hitting him with a rolled up newspaper will only confuse your dog and may actually teach him to hide his bodily functions from you — soon you’ll find his “presents” in the closet or behind the couch. Or you may find that he will not go to the bathroom in front of you, even when it’s the right location. Or your dog may drink his urine or eat his excrement (coprophagia) from fear of your reaction.
Never correct a dog eliminating in the wrong place after the fact. Correct them only if you catch them in the act, and not by hitting them, but by yelling NO! or OUTSIDE!, and immediately taking your dog out. Once outside, stay with him to praise the heck out of him for doing it there.
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Ignoring bad behaviors such as jumping, chewing and aggression, thinking your dog will “grow out of it.” The longer your dog is allowed to continue inappropriate behavior, the more certain he will become that it is acceptable. Jumping, chewing and aggression are not stages of a dog’s development, but unacceptable behavior. Teach your dog that this is unwanted behavior by teaching him what to do instead.
Hitting your dog or using pain in the learning process. Personally, I’m against using intimidating training techniques. Prong and choke collars are even outlawed in some places, such as Rome and Torino, Italy. Today we have products available to keep dogs from pulling on the leash, not to mention years of research about modifying behavior by positive and negative reinforcement though humane methods that don’t involve pain — such as the Sporn and Gentle Leader products — that there’s simply no need to use “Spanish Inquisition” methods on our best friends!
Taking your dog back in the house immediately after he eliminates. Your dog takes forever to go to the bathroom — he takes as much time as he can to find just the right spot and read all the p-mail in the neighborhood. Why? Because the minute he eliminates, his time outside is all over and you hustle him back into the house. So in order to stay outside longer, he simply delays going to the bathroom.
The solution? Teach your dog to go to the bathroom on cue and, once he does, reward him by starting the walk then!