People seem to make the same dog training mistakes over and over, me included. It’s easy to get into a rut and continue doing what you’ve been doing. For the best results, however, it’s good to take a step back. Every once in a while, it’s important to reconsider how you’ve been training your dog and evaluate if things are progressing the way you hoped they would.
To that end, I’ve listed the most common training mistakes dog owners make—along with some easy adjustments—so you and Rover will have a clear and easy line of communication open. This list is not in any particular order. You may need to brush up on some or all of these. I’ll refrain from telling you how many I need to brush up on but I will say this, I need to take my own advice in a big way on some of these!
Dogs understand consistency, and if you vary your approach too often, your dog’s ability to learn will be compromised. For example, if you are tolerant with a stubborn dog one day but become impatient with him the next, he won’t understand you. Over time, inconsistency can damage your dog’s trust and confidence in you. Establish specific training methods and consistent expectations and stay the course.
A consistent timeframe is also helpful. Be careful not to let the training session go on too long or your dog will become disinterested. Likewise, make sure the sessions are not so short that the dog doesn’t understand what you are asking of him. Learn the length of time that works best for your dog and stick to it.
We went to the animal shelter last weekend to visit with the shelter pets and give them some one-on-one attention. We do this fairly often and it always pulls on my heart strings; I want to bring carloads of the sweet, homeless animals home with us, but I know it’s not feasible so I stay strong and do what we’re there to do.
On this visit, however, my heart strings were nearly ripped out of my chest. The puppies! Our local shelters are bursting with loveable little puppies. When I got over the initial cuteness-overload response, this made perfect sense. One of the most common reasons dogs are taken to animal shelters is because of excessive barking. This time of year, many puppies that were given as gifts over the holidays are now being relinquished to shelters for things like barking and biting and generally being a puppy. It’s reported that one-fifth of all the dogs adopted from shelters are returned within a few months. What a sad statistic.
Our recent shelter visit compelled me to review my previous article on Tips to Curb Puppy Biting and Aggression and expand the subject to include excessive puppy barking. My goal is to educate new puppy owners on what to expect from young, precocious pups and offer suggestions to curb or even prevent these unwanted behaviors.
Why does my puppy bark so much?
Dogs bark for a variety of reasons, but it usually boils down to some form of communication, boredom, a request for attention, or a response to a perceived threat. Your dog wants to be a contributing member of the family and they often assign themselves the role of the protector. Everything is new to a puppy, so his barking may be a warning that a garbage truck is nearby or a neighbor is walking past the house or your hat is on crooked.
Aging is an inevitable fact of life that can sometimes cause us to long for the days of our youth. But with age comes – hopefully – wisdom and an appreciation for what’s good in our lives. Our pets don’t have our level of knowledge about what lies ahead, and they can’t tell us what they are going through as they grow older. Some changes can indicate a medical issue, and some are just normal changes that can alter your pet’s behavior.
The average lifespan of dogs is around 7 to 14 years, but many canines live well past the average. Cats have a lifespan around 14 to 16 years, with many felines living into their 20s. Proper vet care, a premium quality diet like CANIDAE natural pet food, daily exercise, and mental stimulation can add years to a dog and cat’s life.
As responsible pet owners, we need to recognize when our four legged friends have reached their twilight years and understand that there will be changes which can affect their behavior.
Although we often credit our dogs with capabilities far beyond their actual mental abilities, they do often seem as if they understand and respond to specific things we say. For example, when we spell words the same way we would in front of a small child in order to hide our meanings from them. Eventually a child grows old enough to understand what we are spelling, but a dog learns those words in very specific ways.
Dogs are not actually learning to spell the same way, even if it seems they suddenly understand and react to specific words spelled out in front of them. They make associations, and with constant repetition begin to associate certain words, sounds and letter sounds with any given situation such as a treat or other reward. They are clever animals and are aware of everything going on around them, but they process it differently than we do.
Take my dog Kira, for instance. One of her favorite games was chasing bubbles. If my daughter or I said the word “bubbles” Kira immediately went into an excited frenzy and raced to the door of the pantry where we stored our bottles of bubble liquid and the battery operated bubble blower that blew dozens of bubbles at a time for her to chase all over the yard until she was happily exhausted. Her tail would wag and all 100 pounds of her would bounce up and down impatiently waiting for us to get out the bubbles and go outside to play with her.
People have a variety of reasons why they dress their pet up in clothes. Some put a coat or sweater on their dog in the winter because he gets too cold without one. Others just think their pet looks cute in a costume. Some pets seem to enjoy all the attention they get when wearing clothes; there’s even a National Dress Up Your Pet Day. But from your pet’s point of view, is he really that excited about wearing clothes? There are things to consider when choosing clothing for dogs and cats, and signals your pet sends that will tell you if he’s comfortable or stressed out in his new getup. Dressing your pet in clothes can change his behavior.
I have a windproof/waterproof coat for each of my dogs to wear during heavy, wet snowfalls and when the temperature is below zero. Winter winds can be wicked where I live, and my dogs appreciate their coats. All except Keikei, my Border Collie mix. She is more of a hat and sunglasses kind of gal, and doesn’t like wearing a coat no matter how cold or snowy it is outside. Keikei is a high energy canine and can’t wait to get outside, but with her coat on she has trouble moving around and prefers to act like a statue. Her personality changes, and I know she feels uncomfortable and confined wearing a coat, so I don’t put it on her.
There is a funky little strip of shops near our house. A popular local coffee shop, a Mexican taqueria, and an artisanal bakery are in this strip along with many other laid-back destinations. The area also houses one of the most well-respected boutique pet shops in town, which is the place my friends and I buy our CANIDAE PURE dog food.
I don’t know if it’s because of the pet shop, because of the bistro tables and chairs lining the fronts of the shops, or because of the relaxed nature of the patrons, but I’d guess one out of every three people that hangs out in the area has a dog with them. I always marvel at these dogs; how they’ll sit quietly under a table while their humans sip a coffee or enjoy a taco, how they’ll walk, unbothered, right past other dogs or children or skateboarders or runners.
Frankly, I’m jealous. If you have dogs you can do these types of things with, kudos to you. We don’t, not by any means. We are working on it, though. It all starts with learning how to desensitize your dog and maintain his attention in any situation.
Some dogs are raised in bustling cities and gradually become accustomed to loud sounds, people milling around and general commotion. Their composure develops via a steady, deliberate exposure to the chaos often found on urban streets. We don’t believe our dogs were raised that way. In fact, we have no idea how our dogs were raised since we rescued them when they were well past puppyhood. Once they were safely in our care, we made the mistake of doing all of their training in our house and in our yard; places that were familiar to them and didn’t hold many distractions.
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