Train Your Puppy: 13 Mistakes That Create Bad Dogs
While puppies bring immense joy into our homes, they also require a lot of work;
A LOT OF WORK.
A puppy cannot raise himself, just like a child cannot raise himself. And just like a toddler, your puppy would choose “cake for breakfast” every day, too, if it was up to him. Just like sending our children to school for 12+ years is a necessity, puppy training is necessary if you want to have a well-behaved dog.
The problem is, when people get busy, they don’t make puppy training a priority. Puppies are wonderful balls of joy and curiosity; but, they can also be like destructive little tornadoes. Either you harness that energy and naughtiness into training your pup, or you end up questioning your sanity as to why you got a puppy in the first place…
And, if left long enough, that naughty or fearful puppy can turn into a full blown intimidating and aggressive nuisance. It is critical to devote the time it takes each day puppy training to ensure that your puppy grows up to be a good canine companion. No one gets a puppy intending to drop them off at a shelter to become just another sad statistic.
So let’s work together and make sure we do this puppy training thing, RIGHT!!! It isn’t difficult, it just takes some patience and consistent work.
Here Are 13 Puppy Training Mistakes That Create Bad Dogs:
- Dealing with Accidents in the House
The #1 reason puppies and dogs are dropped at the shelter is because of housebreaking issues. Many new dog owners do not realize just how important it is to potty-train a puppy. Dogs are not born knowing human expectations. Dogs do not spring from the womb knowing that having accidents “inside” the house is wrong.
After all, they are typically whelped in a box in someone’s house; so they are used to going potty inside. Also, the smaller the dog, the more difficult it is to potty train, especially in toy breeds. The majority of toy breeds have potty training issues. Yes, the majority!
If a Great Dane puppy poops in the house, he is going to have a hard time getting far enough away from it. However, if a Yorkie has an accident behind the couch he can just sit across the room and not be bothered by his accident. The problem is that having accidents continually forms a habit.
Just because you have a small dog that is easy to clean up after, you are doing him a HUGE disservice by not actively housebreaking him and getting him outside each and every time he needs to go potty, just like that Great Dane puppy. I can’t tell you how many small dog owners tell me they aren’t “bothered” by their dogs using their house as a toilet… until they decide to get new flooring or their lifestyle changes and suddenly they expect the dog to just stop. And when he doesn’t, they drop him at the shelter.
If your circumstances make it hard for you to get your puppy outdoors, he can still be house trained using puppy pads. The idea behind using a puppy pad is to provide a visible, consistent area for your puppy to go potty. You'll want to choose something that is absorbent, easy to clean up, and large enough for the messes that your specific puppy makes.
Allow your puppy to see and sniff the potty pads you chose. This will help it get used to the new item so it isn't scared of it at potty time. Let your puppy walk on the potty pad while you repeat a consistent command that you plan to say at potty time, such as "go potty."
Dogs will not automatically know how to use the puppy pad, so training is important-When he looks like he’s starting to think about relieving himself, quickly take him to the puppy pad and let him do his business. Success? Good! Praise & reward your pup for a job well done. Not so successful? Don’t yell, take him to the pad, instead.
The goal is to avoid instilling fear in your dog, which will make him think it’s OK to relieve himself in the wrong place—just as long as you’re not around. Here are a few tips to ensure you have a house trained pup in no time:
Stick to a schedule
Teach the difference between the floor and the pad
Take regular trips to the potty pad every few hours, and simply wait for him to go
Practice makes perfect!
Before you get a puppy, tell yourself that number one, you will potty train your puppy! And number two, he is going to have a few accidents until he learns to gain bladder control (after all we don’t expect babies to be potty trained straight out of the hospital). And, tell yourself that when you potty train a puppy, his house training success is about YOU.
That’s right, house training has very little to do with your puppy until he is much, much older and you have already solidified good habits. Thinking that it is up to your puppy to potty train himself is setting you both up for failure.
One of the most important things you will do for your dog is Potty train your puppy! Be diligent, get him out every 2 hours and keep him with you so that he doesn’t have accidents and form bad habits.
One day, you will thank me for it!
- Avoiding the Crate
Crates are soooooooooo important. Seriously, there aren’t enough “O’s” on the page to denote how critical I think crates are for the safety of dogs and their owners, and their owner’s things. Crates help puppies learn to hold their urine and feces.
If you have a small dog, get a small crate so that, again, he is learning that having an accident in close proximity is bothersome. If you have a large breed puppy, you can get a big crate and section it off so that he has a smaller space as a puppy; this will help you with potty training your pup. Nothing wants to sit in its own urine and feces, unless that is how it was raised (click here if you have a dirty puppy)
Crates keep your things safe!
Don’t want your puppy stealing dangerous food, getting in the trash or toilet when you are away?
Don’t want your puppy to eat your Michael Kors purse or your computer?
Crate train him!
Eating drywall, sofas, and expensive items are another big reason that dogs end up in shelters. Shredding your things is fun for your dog, he is a different species and he entertains himself in inconvenient ways. Crates keep everything safe and everyone SANE!
It also ironically takes some stress away from your dog. Guarding the house and worrying about every single noise can create fearful and phobic dogs, especially puppies! I used to pet sit in a mansion and I was always a little terrified. The smaller the space, the more confident I am, and the same goes for your dog.
Won’t your puppy whine or cry? OF COURSE he will! But just because a baby cries in his crib, doesn’t mean we spend every waking moment with him. Is it difficult to hear them cry?
But they work through it IF YOU LET THEM.
If you take them out every time they cry or throw a fit, you will be teaching your puppy to throw bigger, hairier fits the next time. Instead, if you train a puppy that he gets out when he is quiet and he will learn that if he’s quiet, being let out of his crate is the reward. I only let my puppies out of their crate when they are quiet, even if it is only a fraction of a second that he is quiet.
I like to make sure that my puppy is exhausted when I scoop his sleepy body up and slide him into his crate. I want my puppy to be too exhausted to care where he is sleeping. Also, and this is a BIG one, I crate them while I am home. If every time you crate your dog is either at bed time or when you leave he begins to associate the crate with long periods of time and you’re leaving.
Why not get him used to being in his crate for 10 minutes so there is no panic.
- Dealing with Nipping
Nipping is a lack of Impulse Control!
You might have noticed that your puppy doesn’t have hands. You might also have noticed that your puppy doesn’t speak English (or whatever your language is). The way that your puppy is used to playing is with his teeth. When he wrestled with his littermates… he used his teeth. So it is only natural that he comes home nipping and biting and trying to engage in play with you!
However, due to human rules and regulations, this kind of behavior is not appropriate and needs to be nipped in the bud IMMEDIATELY! Nothing infuriates me more than an adult dog that grabs people with their teeth. Just the other day at the vet clinic I work at, a dog came in for an exam and was biting everyone!
I mean he wasn’t drawing blood, but he definitely put his mouth on his owner, the vet, and me! This is a serious lack of impulse control and if not curbed early this dog could be reported for biting. All it takes is one harsh tooth on the hand of an infant or toddler and the dog can be deemed dangerous.
Mouthing and nipping isn’t cute. It shouldn’t be cute whether the puppies are 8 weeks or 8 months old! It should not be tolerated at all. My biggest rule at my house is that I NEVER feel teeth! Biting leads to euthanasia! Do you have a “Land Shark”? Then, click here for more help with biting.
- Handling Chewing
I remember several summers ago when I had step kids in the house. I can’t tell you how many of their things were lost that summer. One dog demolished two “Gameboys”.
I think he liked them because they smelled like the kids; I mean, they carried those things around with them like they were a part of their body. So, yes, my dogs were naughty… but so were the teenage kids that left them out to be chewed! There has to be some kind of culpability.
If I leave my computer or Michael Kors glasses sitting out on the living room end table, while the puppy plays and no one watches him… I am setting him up for failure. When I have puppies, I get really good at cleaning up after myself and putting my things away. It is crucial to limit the distractions and temptations in order to keep your puppy safe.
My computer smells like me; I use it all of the time so there is a high likelihood that a puppy that likes me would want to chew it. Chewing a plugged in computer could kill a puppy. It is up to me to put dangerous things and important things up and away from puppies. It flabbergasts me that people will “baby or toddler proof” their home… but somehow they think puppies should be hardwired not to chew or get into our things.
Nothing is farther from the truth. Actually, puppies eat and swallow things that kill them or require surgery, quite frequently. It is crucial to keep an eye on your puppy!
Watching your puppy will help you potty train him faster and it will keep him from chewing on things that he shouldn’t be putting his mouth on! I actually keep my puppies on a tether with me so that if they grab something they shouldn’t have, I can exchange it for a puppy appropriate item. It also prevents my puppy from forming bad habits.
Many puppies steal items and then dash around the house with them like they are luring you into play with a toy. Even if you are furious, your puppy is having the time of his life! That is why I refuse to chase a puppy.
- When Snatching Things Is a Problem
Who has ever had a bit of food dangling in their hand, only to have it snatched out by your dog or another dog? Almost nothing is more frustrating. Recently I wrote an article that has an important video: click here for more.
Dogs who snatch food and other things that don’t belong to them have a serious impulse control problem. I used to have a friend who would let his dog wander fairs, the dog was notorious for stealing food from people in the crowd. It was embarrassing at best. One of the FIRST and most important things we taught our Service Dogs in training was that you DO NOT steal food.
They could lie down in a pile of popcorn and have the control not to eat it. It is crucial when taking a dog out in public, that the dog not eat everything that his mouth is near. Anything else could mean a super sick dog and a one way ticket out of a business.
Service Dogs aren’t super hero dogs that wear capes…. Service Dogs are just dogs that have been taught impulse control and exceptional obedience. The basis of the behavior can be taught to any dog, it just takes some training. And we have created a game to help stop your puppy from snatching things from your hands.
Click here for the Stop Snatching Things from My Hand Game. But wouldn’t you rather have a dog that you can take to a family BBQ rather than a dog that has to be locked away every time someone has a toy or a bit of food the dog wants?
- Puppy Is Demanding
I hate being demanded to do something. I mean, I get it, when I am at work sometimes things are time sensitive. But, I still like to be asked nicely. And, the fun thing about work is that there is a handsome pay off when my check comes.
I DETEST when my dog demands something! Heck, I work for my paycheck so that I can afford dog food and veterinary care… I certainly don’t want my dog up in my face demanding that I do ANYTHING for him/her. I don’t want you barking when you want me to fill your bowl.
I don’t want you to bark when you want me to throw your ball. And, I don’t want you hiding your toys around the house and then barking to get my attention. I currently pet sit a lovely, although difficult, dog that can’t really be watched by anyone but me; he constantly drops his toys out of his reach so that he can constantly bark so that I will get up with him.
It drives me batty. Sometimes I just put him outside, because I can’t in good conscious throw it while he demands I spring into action. By allowing your dog to demand that you do anything for him, you are allowing him to be in charge.
And, allowing your dog to be in charge is a recipe for disaster. After all, you should have the higher mental aptitude and be capable of doing the things he needs when he needs them. If he demands something from you… give him the opposite. IMMEDIATELY!
If he learns that demanding = what he doesn’t want, he will stop demanding!
- Handling the Jumping Problem
Jumping is complicated. It is natural for a dog or a puppy to want to jump on his owner. Puppies, especially, jump because they are so low to the ground and they want to be closer to us. If we think this is cute and pick them up or pet them and reward them, we are conditioning them that the behavior is good.
You go from having a 10 pound jumper to a 150 pound jumper. And, unbeknownst to your dog, he doesn’t understand that he has put on 140 pounds. If you think about it, it is unfair to have different expectations as a puppy to adult, after you have trained him to do things that you later decide you don’t want!
The safe bet is to train a puppy to keep all 4 of his paws on the ground, if he wants to be petted and interacted with. So one of the first simple puppy training games you can teach is the Step Away Game. Here’s a little video that shows you the first steps for how to train a puppy this game.
The same goes with meeting new people, if the puppy is wild and jumping, he hasn’t earned the privilege of meeting people. Don’t let him get in the habit of jumping up! Nip that in the bud early.
And if you haven’t done so already, click here to download The Step Away Game Cheat Sheet, so you can start transforming your puppy’s ability to control his jumping impulses today.
- Not Controlling Barking
Make a choice, and make it early on. Either you will accept barking and think that it is cute, or you will curb it right away. So often, puppy owners laugh and carry on when their puppies bark at the door bell on TV or protect them from falling leaves in fall; and then, after a few months, they find this behavior they once thought was cute deplorable.
Now the dog barks at everything (of course) and the people are at their wits end. I suggest that you never show your dog that you think it is funny or reward the behavior. Again, the best thing to do is to nip this barking behavior in the bud, early.
And for a helpful video on how to train a puppy stop barking, check out this fun game we created. Honestly, I like being in charge of my dog’s voice. I like to train a puppy when to bark and when to be quiet. This allows him to use his instinct for barking but also gives me control when I don’t want to know when each leaf lets go of the tree out front.
We have created a game to help train a puppy to stop barking: Click here to download the “Quiet Command” Game Cheat Sheet, so you can start controlling your dog’s impulses to bark today.
- Dealing with Fearful Behaviors
All puppies go through fear stages, usually between 8-11 weeks and a second fear period between 6-14 months. It is critical to acknowledge and prepare for these. It is also crucial not to lock your puppy away or think you were blessed with the one puppy that will not have any issues. Most puppies have some struggles.
But if you are prepared you can meet these stages with well-behaved humans and other dogs during your puppy training that you know and trust to help teach your puppy that life is full of wonderful things. DO NOT take your dog to a dog park or a daycare where they may be abused and that abuse may stick for life. Also do not coddle them.
If they show fear, don’t coo to them, NEVER say “it’s okay, it’s okay”; you are reinforcing and solidifying the feeling of fear. Instead, ignore it or laugh it off and show the dog he is silly. I like letting the dog conquer his fears so that he gains confidence on his own.
I don’t want him thinking that I condone or like his fears. So I provide back up, but I don’t force and I hope that he works through his stress. I am always available to click and reward when he moves toward overcoming his fears.
It sets them back when you pick them up, or coo to them or pet and try to reassure them like they were people. Dogs aren’t people, they need to figure things out on their own, so control the environment so they can’t get overly scared and hurt themselves, and help from a far to encourage confident behavior.
- Pulling on Leash
Your dog is going to spend the majority of his life on a leash (unless you live on a ranch, in which case you probably won’t be looking for dog training). Having a dog that doesn’t pull your arm out of its socket is critical to good dog ownership. After all, I want to walk my dogs, feel safe, let them be dogs, and enjoy themselves, but rely on fabulous obedience when I ask for it!
I have literally had clients who have had dogs that have broken their arms when they pulled them down. Leash pulling needs to be taken seriously. The problem is that leash walking respectfully is more complicated than teaching your puppy the average command like “sit” or “down”.
Leash manners should be taught in stages or chained behaviors. For instance, when I was teaching Service Dogs to perform specific behaviors we would have to chain behaviors together to achieve the final product. You can’t expect a dog to go across the room and turn on a light switch on the first command.
The dog is usually back-chained teaching the dog to first jump up on the wall, then address the light and finally sent across the room. Puppy training and manners should be tackled in the same type of way, by teaching the puppy eye contact and focus and that looking at you is rewarding. It is also important to train a puppy that he needs to be taught to respect the length of the leash (always using the same leash/leash length) so that they never get into the habit of pulling.
Just this week I was vacationing at the beach and it was so nice to be able to allow my dogs to wander and be dogs, but when I saw another dog, I asked for “heel” and “focus” as I moved past the distractions. Then I could allow my dogs to go out and continue to be dogs.
- Not Avoiding Reactivity
Reactivity is another behavior to avoid. The more confident the dog, typically the less reactive the dog, so fostering independence and socialization are crucial! Also, you must learn to be in control of your own emotions.
If every time you see another dog, you get nervous or pull or correct your puppy the feeling travels down the leash to your puppy. The puppy, then, begins to think that other dogs are a “bad” thing and he feels like he needs to protect you and “react” whenever he sees one.
This can go for any trigger that makes you uncomfortable. We have created a game to help with this:
Click here to download the Look Away Game.
And, remember - Calm yourself! The more obedient your puppy is, the more control you have, the more confident he is and the calmer you can be when you are out together. Even if you find yourself uncomfortable about something, try to hide it and remain calm while dealing with the problem.
I have rarely ever had a true emergency that I couldn’t deal with on my own. Even off leash dogs that rush my dogs can be dealt with swiftly, because it is my job to make sure MY dogs are well behaved no matter what, and then I can focus on dealing with the other dog!
Your emotions matter!
- Intolerance to Touch
HoweverPuppies need to be touched, uncomfortably.
I know that sounds terrible!
No one wants to train a puppy to be held past the point of pleasure or hurt him in any way. However, the odds that you are going to have to do something to your dog that your dog doesn’t like are probably over 90%. Dogs don’t like baths, nail trims, ears cleaned, medications given, brushed… the list goes on and on.
Get your puppy used to uncomfortable touch early so that he gets used to it! I recommend getting started nail trimming early. I ask my dogs to lie down on the ground and take one paw at a time for trimming and because I have started my puppies when they were young and let them work through their temper tantrums when they were 8 weeks old, they are a breeze to deal with now!
My dogs actually enjoy having their nails trimmed because they get treats for good behavior and when I am done. As puppies, I use more frequent and better rewards to help condition them that if they just endure, they will be rewarded. Don’t wait to train a puppy until he is full grown and over 100 pounds to realize that you can’t clean his ear that is infected!
- Feeding Your Puppy from a Bowl
This is a tip from one of my favorite friends! He once told me that he NEVER feeds his puppy from a bowl. He takes the appropriate amount of bowl sized food and puts it in his training pouch and he makes his puppies work for their meal.
He often rewards with “jackpots” like a hand full of food, instead of one piece of kibble at a time but essentially he is teaching his puppy to work for his food. This helps to keep the puppy motivated when he trains, as the puppy is conditioned to focus on food and his owner for life (since food is critical). It also becomes a bonding activity!
Do you like to eat alone? Most of us like to meet friends and family for meals, because meals are social occasions. Puppies also like meal time to be social so even though it sounds “mean” to train a puppy to work for his food; nothing is further from the truth!
Your puppy wants to spend time with you, and he also will like learning and working for his meals. The other big bonus… is that you will have to TRAIN your puppy at least twice a day! People get busy and they forget that the cute puppy they brought home 2 weeks ago needs a lot of puppy training and socialization.
If you require yourself to use meal time to train a puppy, you will have a very well-behaved dog very quickly! Just this tip alone can change your entire relationship with your dog! It isn’t easy to carve time out sometimes, but this will help you remember how important it is to spend time teaching and bonding with your puppy every day!
Again, you don’t want to wait until your puppy is over 100 pounds and realize you have little to no control of him.
Socialization is critical! I know I mentioned it earlier, but I thought it deserved its own spot on this list.
Puppies aren’t puppies for long! They have a very short window to learn about all the things that will be in their life as they age. It is very important to get them used to all kinds of other dogs, people, children and environments. I can’t tell you how many people I know that get a puppy, bring it home, and even do some obedience training, but never take the puppy outside of the home until they are full grown.
They then end up with a fearful adult dog that is unsure in all kinds of new situations. Many of these dogs look seriously “abused” to the average person because they are so fearful of everything, when actually it is simply because the puppy was never given proper socialization and exposed to different things. If you want your dog to go hiking, go to the ball field, go to parks and other places, and be able to be around people of all shapes, sizes, colors and children, you need to take him to these places and teach him manners when he is young.
Socialization isn’t always about “playing with” something; often it is about learning to be obedient around certain things and situations. No one brings home a cute fuzzy puppy and considers that it will one day become a terrifying, dominant dog! No one wants to be in an abusive relationship with their dog either, (where the dog is in control of everything in his environment)!
These simple 13 puppy training mistakes will help you teach your puppy to grow into a loving canine companion!