Fix the 5 most common dog training mistakes
Learn how your pet-rearing techniques may actually be backfiring. Dog
behaviourist Tamar Geller shares some new teaching methods
Updated: 11:22 a.m. ET March 17, 2006
Training your dog has a lot to do with understanding how they think.
Dog behaviourist 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
the behaviour 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
the 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
behaviour 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.
Ignoring bad behaviours such as jumping, chewing and aggression,
thinking your dog will "grow out of it." The longer your dog is
allowed to continue inappropriate behaviour, the more certain he will
become that it is acceptable. Jumping, chewing and aggression are not
stages of a dog's development, but unacceptable behaviour. Teach your
dog that this is unwanted behaviour by teaching him what to do
Hitting your dog or using the 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 behaviour
by positive and negative reinforcement through 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
neighbourhood. 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!