3 Things You Should NEVER Do When Training Your New Puppy
As a dog trainer, I am constantly exposed to a lot of same common mistakes that new dog owners make when training their puppies.
Out of this experience, I’ve been able to identify three HUGE mistakes that, if prevented altogether, can VASTLY speed up your learning curve as a new puppy parent.
If you want to be a respected pack leader for your dog, one that they choose to follow, there are certainly some things you must avoid.
Being mindful of these common mistakes, and following the accompanying advice below will help make the entire training process much more efficient!
So, what are the three things you should never do when training your puppy?
1. Be Inconsistent
Consistency is KEY! In order for a puppy to learn what is right and what is not, you must consistently enforce good habits ALL THE TIME.
For instance, if you are having an issue with your puppy jumping on you when he is excited, you must tell him that is not appropriate behavior every single time he does it.
If you allow him to jump up on you even one time and then the next time scold him for it, he will be confused.
He will not understand why it was alright for him to jump up on you last time and now this time it is not.
You have to enforce the behavior you are trying to teach your dog EVERY SINGLE TIME. Otherwise, your dog WILL continue to practice the behavior that you want to stop.
Many dog owners have told me that sometimes it is just “easier” to let their dog perform the inappropriate behavior.
When trying to train a new skill, they'll encounter some failure and then get discouraged when their pup isn’t listening to their attempt at correcting the behavior.
For instance, let’s say your dog is just extra excited to see you, and is jumping up on you like crazy. You tell your dog “OFF” and it doesn’t seem to do anything because he is just way too excited.
This is where a lot of owners give up and say that it is easier to just let him jump until he gets his excitement out.
Trust me, I understand why trying to correct and control a crazy dog may seem like a lost cause at times, but it is definitely NOT!
Your dog WILL listen to you if you are consistent and persistent. It may take your dog five whole minutes until he settles down and listens to your command, but the important fact is that he eventually WILL listen to your command, and this is a huge amount of progress in correcting the unwanted behavior.
It may seem incredibly repetitive correcting your dog over and over again, especially when it seems like he’s not understanding right away.
But, the more consistent you are with anything, the faster your dog will learn what you are attempting to teach him.
2. Repeating a Command Multiple Times
This is one of the most common mistakes I see owners make when training their puppies. When commanding your puppy to do something, you should only tell him ONE TIME, no exceptions!
This is a common scenario that I come across: an owner telling a puppy to sit, the puppy does not sit, so the owner keeps telling him to sit until he sits.
If you tell your puppy to sit 3 times before he finally sits, he will think that he doesn't have to sit until after the third time you tell him!
This causes a destructive cycle in which your puppy loses regard for your commands as the pack leader. Don’t let this happen!
You want to be able to command your dog to do something and have him do it after only telling him one time.
It may be hard for you to not repeat the command, especially if your puppy’s attention is drifting away from you.
However, you must be firm and stick with this piece of advice. If you do encounter the scenario described above, use your puppy’s name or another noise to refocus his attention back on you (I like to use a ‘kissy noise’).
Under no circumstances should you repeat the command again, even after using your puppy's name or an attention grabber. Use hand gestures and other noises to refocus him back on you.
3. Using Negative Reinforcement
I strongly believe that using positive reinforcement is the most effective and efficient method for training dogs.
In addition, it’s my personal opinion (along with most others) that there’s no excuse to physically harm the pet you’re supposed to be nurturing and raising as if a member of your family.
What exactly is positive reinforcement?
Positive reinforcement uses rewards, such as praise and/or treats, when your dog does something right.
Why is positive reinforcement so effective?
Let me answer this common question with a question of my own.
What would make you more determined and excited to complete a task?
A. If every time you completed a task, you were praised for doing it correctly.
B. If every time a task was assigned to you, you were automatically given a negative stimulus until you completed the task. Once you finish the task, the negative stimulus is removed, but there is no praise.
I think it’s safe to say that most people would definitely find the first example more enjoyable of a task to complete!
The first example is an example of positive reinforcement; whereas the second is an example of negative reinforcement.
In my experience, I have found that dogs respond significantly better to positive reinforcement than to negative reinforcement.
Knowing that a reward will be given to them once they complete a task correctly, gives dogs motivation and excitement to complete the task, while providing a positive atmosphere.
You want training to be FUN for both you and your pup!
Positive reinforcement keeps a dog in good spirits and creates a positive environment so that your pup will look forward to training, instead of making it into a chore.
Being aware of these three common training mistakes and making the effort to correct them will make the training process much simpler and incredibly more effective.
Training a puppy is no easy task and does take a lot of work.
However, if you put in the work in the beginning and follow this advice, you and your puppy will enjoy the training process a lot more and you will end up with a happy and well-trained pup!
Serious Dog Owners ONLY!
For a comprehensive, A to Z guide on effectively training a new puppy—as well as just about everything else a new dog owner would need to know, check out "The Puppy Training Handbook” Program so you can raise a well-behaved dog!