Expecting Too Much; Why It’s Ruining Your Dog Training

Thanks Zack and Zoe for the Photo

Many of the things we expect our dogs to do on a daily basis are difficult chained behaviors that go against their instincts and everything they WANT to do.

We start by teaching our dogs simple behaviors like “sit” and “down”.

We take them to dog obedience classes to drill in these simple concepts but we rarely teach them or test them in distracting environments, we just expect them to know that a command is the same no matter where they are.

But dogs think and learn differently and they have difficulty generalizing even easy commands when they are distracted. For more on that read this article by clicking on the link here.

Most of the things we want from our dogs are difficult chained behaviors.

  • Expect your dog to give you eye contact and focus while heeling while another dog barks and lunges on a leash from across the street?
  • Expect your dog to stop fence fighting on command?
  • Expect your dog NOT to pull on a leash no matter what else is going on?

Would it shock you to know that these are very complex behaviors that require many behavior in between that you are expecting from your dog?

And, each of those behaviors in between need to be taught to your dog and established in your training regimen and then tested slowly as you build on it toward your goal.

Overcoming a bad habit, or teaching a difficult behavior may take months.

But People’s Expectations are Too High

But people’s expectations for their dogs are often too high which sets them both up for failure and frustration in the end.

They think once they have taught a few simple behaviors in a sterile environment (one with little to no distractions) that their dog is ready to be tested in the real world amongst lots of distractions.

For Example

Eye Contact and focus

I break down and teach this behavior in our companion dog program.  If you need help teaching your dog eye contact and focus read this. https://thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/eye-contact-focus-behavior-broken/

Each session I will get questions from people who started out on the first week in their homes teaching their dogs, and their dogs successfully begin to give them eye contact on command for very short durations (you have to work to extend the duration of the behavior), who then think they can ask for this behavior on command when they take the dog for a walk… only to find that the behavior is gone or they can’t get it on cue anymore.

Their expectations are WAY TOO HIGH

From this .... Thanks Honden School for the photo

From this …. Thanks Honden School for the photo

It takes me months to get my dogs to give me devoted eye contact and focus in a distracting environment while heeling.

And, if you don’t build the foundation well; you are making training much more difficult if not impossible.

Your dog learns the command and is rewarded for the behavior in short duration of course in the beginning.

Then you take him out and he ignores your command (because he isn’t ready to be tested to this degree) and he continues to hear the command as you command him over and over and so he learns to ignore this command.

To THIS with Training ... Thanks Schutzhund Club Orlando for the photo

To THIS with Training … Thanks Schutzhund Club Orlando for the photo

So you went from teaching your dog a command, to teaching your dog to ignore you all in the first week.

Instead you must teach the behavior first in a sterile environment until he understands fully and is 95% reliable, then you begin to add more distractions like environment, then more like squirrels, or kids, or balls etc.  until the behavior is again 95%.

Once he has been taught in many environments and you have tested him with multiple distractions, then and only then is he ready for a good walk in an environment you can’t control.

You see, you build a strong foundation first in order to be successful!

Then you back up a bit if you need to when he struggles, and he will struggle they all do, but you have given him the tools he needs to accomplish the goals you have for him.

If you go from new behavior to a walk you haven’t given him the learning and the tools he needs to be successful.  You are setting him and YOURSELF up for failure!  This is when people get frustrated and think it is too hard, so they must quit!  When really, if you take the time to teach your dog in all environments you will end up with a dog that can conquer just about anything.

Fence Fighting

Fence Fighting can be a Bad and Dangerous Behavior Thanks Twinkie Tiny Dog for the photo

Fence Fighting can be a Bad and Dangerous Behavior Thanks Twinkie Tiny Dog for the photo

We all know I love eye contact and focus 😉 so let’s talk about another behavior.

Fence fighting!  You’ve taken your dog to obedience class, so he should listen when you yell at him to stop fence fighting right?

The truth is that this is a very complex behavior as well.

Instinctively dogs are territorial, so putting another dog on top of your dog’s territory is setting them up for failure or something they are not used to.

Plus, fence fighting for the dogs is FUN!!!  They get to run back and forth and bark and snap and be dogs, fence fighting is a good time if you are a dog!

So, oddly enough I recommend teaching your dog to give you eye contact and focus when you have a fence fighter 😉

It is impossible to give you eye contact and focus and still fence fight.

So I tell my clients to teach the eye contact and focus and of course they have to work up to the distraction of having another dog chase the fence and fight.

They must keep their dogs on a leash all of the time to STOP the bad behavior from happening until they can get control of it behaviorally (which can take months).

But you can’t give your dog one or two sessions and expect him to know and comply.

In fact every time he is allowed to fence fight (obviously not being walked on a leash) he is more likely to fence fight the next time.  Even if he has been kept from it for a month, that one time he is allowed to go back to the undesired behavior it is as if you are at square one again!

But people have these crazy high expectations for their dogs.

They don’t want to actually train them to comply, and they certainly don’t want to invest the time it takes to change bad or obsessive behaviors.

Leash Pulling

First you must teach your dog where you expect him to be and what you expect him to do; and leash training takes many steps.

AND, allowing your dog to pull you on leash while you are in the middle of leash training, teaches him to pull!

I recommend my clients STOP walking their dogs on leash until they have taught their dogs where to be and what to do and then work their way up in distractions.

Dogs can be exercised in a multitude of ways without going on a “walk” with their owners.  And, many of them are better exercise for your dog!

For more on leash manners and teaching your dog the components he needs to stop pulling click here.

Sometimes you are just expecting too much!  Remember you can’t send your kindergartner to college, there is a lot of learning, steps, and a firm foundation you need before moving on to complex behaviors!

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  1. Nancy Hughes says:

    Well, finally got the German Shepard and well as you say expectations are too high.
    Thought when I would teach this dog not to pull things would be fine. When I take him out on a regular collar forget it all the training goes out the window.
    I am using a prong collar with my training so that I can have the command on the dog.
    Well, she is great when the leash is on and the sit and down command is given, but when it comes to the verbal or hand forget it.
    I have been at this a month and still staying in the back of seat is not a preference that this dog wants, she wants to be in the front. So when I come back from shopping bring her to the back and say good girl in the back!
    The dog is a rescue dog and she has the anxiety issue of being alone, oh man tried putting her in a crate, she tipped that over and got out the bottom and side, then I left her alone another time came home and the frame on my laundry room door is chewed off.
    Saying bad dog and bringing it to her attention seems to work but doesn’t seem to stick. When I take her to the car she will do the same thing on the seating and then the howling and whining I get called on that. I make sure I only have to go in for one item and not be out longer then 10 minutes.
    These are my issues and after a month the only thing I am getting is a dog that is walking beside me and if she leads just give her a little tug and back in line. That is all I have been able to do.
    As for Greeting her former owner jumps all over so tell her to relax and finally she calms down.


    Minette Reply:

    Read this… the prong collar teaches her nothing! But teaching her what you want works.

    There are 4 articles highlighted in here… read them all http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/leash-manners-final-step/


  2. Hi,

    You training is absolutely amazing.

    I have a very difficult problem to solve.

    My 11 year neutered male dog, jumps a 6 foot fence to go “visiting” and then returns. He is not an only dog, and he doesn’t go for long, but it worries me as he might be knocked over by a car.

    What can I do about it?




    Minette Reply:

    I would get an invisible fence system that you can put about 2 feet or so inside your fence line, or you can put a string through a pipe and anchor it above your fence so when he jumps up he can’t get the footing he needs to jump over.. because the pipe spins.

    Or go out with him on a leash


  3. Mary says:

    Good advice. I teach puppy obedience and the biggest problem, one that prevents many puppies from learning, starts with the handler who thinks breaking behavior’s down is unnecessary!

    The biggest roadblock to a well trained dog is expectation that are too high.


  4. Bonnie says:

    That’s exactly where I am at with Izzy. She was doing really well at sit, stay, come, down, and walking on the leash until we started going to the dog park and she instantly got stupid. Now I understand.
    I also know my biggest problem is I expect too much……my friends keep reminding me she is just a baby. So this was a good reminder.


  5. karen thomason says:

    My lab is 2 years old, and still pulls on the leash at times. Should I stop taking him out at all until he totally stays in heal?


    Minette Reply:

    Yes, teach him leash manners and eye contact and focus… he can’t “learn” while he is distracted and pulling!


  6. J Jackson says:

    Thanks. This is great advice. I appreciate this site more and more, the more I read. It’s a very different way of training dogs than, say, Cesar Milan, and I find that my dog responds very well to this type of training as opposed to the other. Breaking down the training in to small steps makes me feel pretty excited when the dog responds. It also makes him pretty excited too, it seems when he ‘gets’ what I’m trying to get him to do.


  7. Dave says:

    I enjoy reading all the information I find here. I find it very useful with my Akita. She is my third dog of that breed. They are notoriously difficult to train. But I have done well with all my dogs (if I do say so myself) my current Akita (Freyja) has proven to be the most difficult though. Especially digging. Do you have any information for that bad habit? (I’ve made sure she has toys etc. to keep her occupied) she used to only dig when she was alone. Now she will do it right in front of me. PLEASE HELP!


    Minette Reply:

    She needs a leave it and also read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/lets-talk-digging/


  8. Brenda says:

    I take my collie girls for a field run in the same field, many thanks to my neighbor.
    I realized the other week that I did walk them out to the same general area on their leashes together and they didn’t pull too much. When we got to the “start line” as I think of it, they actually looked back at me, at the same time. So I did what I always did, I said, “Ready, set,go!” and dropped the leashes. They took off running straight to the stream. I realized that it was a lot of repetition, and that I just sort of started goofing around with the ready set go thing.
    BUT, today, we had the neighbor dog, kids, the riding mower out and the golf cart. They like to see people so to get them to come back to me I must have no one there. So no run today.
    And for my safety, I used another of my goofy commands to make them stop jumping up when I am coming up the basement stairs, I started saying , “Back it up, Buttercup!” a phrase less a command I use when I am getting swarmed for carrots. I have decent success with it.
    And I was at a wolf sanctuary on Saturday and the tour guides were talking about wolf behavior. So about that fence jumping thing, one of the wolf/dog hybrids accidentally got her tail stuck through the fence, trespassing. One of the wolves bit enough of it off and it had to amputated. So yeah the fence jumping thing is going to take some time.
    And btw, they said they feed the wolves every other day. They forklift deer carcasses over (roadkills) and raw chicken, bones and all. A wolf has 1500 lbs/sq.in pressure and they can digest the fowl bones but your dog cannot.


  9. Brenda says:

    I have learned a valuable lesson today,about walking the dogs of course every distraction is of vital importance and if the dog or dogs don’t know how to deal with this situation we obviously keep on saying the same cammand without getting a reaction or eye contact… We are going to practice . We are going to do things in our own garden and see how patient we can be. Thanks for this! X


  10. Kenneth B. Davenport says:

    I need advice on my German Shepherd 5 months old “Johnny Ringo”
    leash walking and general obedience training
    Tell me the specific program that you have to offer for my problem…..

    Thank you,
    Kenneth B. Davenport


    Minette Reply:

    Read this and all of the articles within it and our Companion Dog program goes over a lot of this basic leash and advanced leash and obedience techniques.

    Contact customer service at info@thedogtrainingsecret.com for information on when it will start again


  11. Bonnie says:

    Ami is now 13 months old (a bichion and yorkie mix), sometimes she comes when I or my husband call her. But when she is in the backyard and its her last pee break for the night I sometimes don’t put her on the leash. She defies me, I call her to come to me, she runs up real close starts barking and runs away from me. She runs around and around me, I make no effort to grab her, I want her to come to me, even with a treat sometimes she stops a couple of feet away from me, and seems to want me to play with her.
    I don’t want her to back-up when I have to pick her up. Most of the time she is a good dog, when I put a bell on the door so she could tell me she wants out, she kept ringing it over and over again, she seems to have gotten over that game.
    But she is distracted by everything.If there is a bug flying by, her head whip’s around and a similar reaction happens if there is a bird flying overhead etc. etc.etc. She also is fixated on the light reflection that appears on my garage (when the sun is in the right position)caused by the opening and closing of the back door. So I think she is barking to come in, but she just wants me to open the door so she can see the light. She is very sweet but I get frustrated when I can’t get her to come to me when I call.
    I did buy your program but I guess I need extra help.
    Bonnie BP


    Fiona Reply:

    Minette’s blogs suggest we need to use up the energy before we expect obedience,
    And it sounds like your pooche’s engines are still revving as you try to put her to bed.
    Maybe some earlier games (1 hour after dinner)
    The sort that have you telling her to get a flashing laser on a wall, or fluff on the end of a switch! Then, just before the last toilet, some calming massage, then leash toiletting would set your dog up for a quieter, more manageable routine last toilet.
    Eventually after a month or so you’d try an off-leash final toilet again, and go back to on leash if the lesson hadn’t been learned;)


  12. Krystal says:

    This article gave me a sigh of relief.

    I have a 10 month Boston who is the perfect angel at home, listens to all commands, has never chewed on anything cept his own toys, and also listens on hiking trails. Has great leash manners, no separation anxiety.

    But, the dog park, or certain friends, and he can only obey me for seconds at a time. I can get him to sit and stay ( which I do before I let him interact with any person) but he is so excited that his whole body is shaking…He just has to lick the person to death. It is not all people, most he could care less about, same with dogs, he becomes so super focused on a certain dog, that he stops recalling. He is not one bit aggressive, just loves too much:) It is a bit frustrating, and I was starting to worry something was wrong.

    I can see that I am expecting too much too soon, I had already started to make sure I didn’t put him in situations where he was sure to fail, and now use a long lead (not retractable one) at Dog Parks so he can still be social yet under my control. I work on focus, and hope that when he gets neutered in a couple weeks, he will settle down.


  13. Jean says:

    I do fostering so I start training from scratch with almost every dog. My current foster is a bit of a basket case and I have to remind myself all the time to take baby steps. I even have BABY STEPS written on my bathroom mirror to remind myself that he has a lot to learn and it isn’t going to be easy with him.

    Love the “kindergarten to college” analogy.

    Thanks for the guidance in your training blogs!


  14. Karen Hoch says:

    I bought your free Dog Training Secrets.com CD but it will not play. I tried it on my apple lap top and my dell desk top.


    Minette Reply:

    We have a tech person at that can help. Email info@thedogtrainingsecret.com and someone can help you either get it to play or get it replaced


  15. janet amighi says:

    I always was amazed how poorly dogs generalize from one environment to another til I was in someone’s kitchen and she said to me “sit down” and there were no chairs. And I just stood there looking around, I didn’t understand what she wanted me to do. Then my jaws dropped and I thought. I could sit on the floor, on the counter, but my definition of sit is on a chair or sofa. So, if I train a dog to sit on a carpet, and we are on grass and I say “sit” well, the dog is most likely to look around for that carpet -sit probably means to him, put your bum down on a carpet. He must feel as dumb as I did. Of course. So now, I understand a little better.


  16. Cheryl Giles says:

    My dog refuses to get into the truck by herself. Even her favorite treats don’t help. Nothing I have tried works. She doesn’t mind riding and wants to go with us but avoids getting in our pickup. She is a sheepadoodle so I cannont lift her in. Now I put her front paws on the seat and then lift the back end in – with no help from her. When it’s time to get in the truck she will run outside so I know she is eager to go, but then she stays out of reach and then finally lays down in a totally relaxed position. I turn her over and pick up her front paws and make her walk on her back legs to the truck – I can’t carry her anymore and that’s the only way I can get her there. This is crazy, but she has outsmarted me on this and I just can’t figure out a way to get past this. She is 9 months old.
    When we picked her up from the airport as a puppy she peed in her crate in the backseat and then was carsick for about 3 months as a puppy. So she did have a rough start. But still, this can not go on.


    Minette Reply:

    Start feeding her in the truck and nowhere else… when she is hungry enough she will get in; also if she has favorite toys throw them in the truck to get her motivated.

    Just sit in the truck with her while she eats, play with her in there and teach her that being in there is not a bad thing and that you aren’t always going to take her somewhere.

    I have a dog that was car sick as a puppy too, she hates getting in the car but wants to go… so I try and make it as fun as possible.


  17. Minette says:

    Read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/avoid-leash-dog-training/

    And even though she is getting exercise she is not getting training… you need to instill some great basic and advanced obedience to your regimen in order to see a change in behavior


  18. How do I get a dog to quit going potty in the house? He is pap we trained but does his business eleswarw.


    Minette Reply:

    Use the search bar on the right side of the page to search for help with potty training.


  19. Tanya Lerm says:

    Hi. I am trying to teach my 5 month old puppy to keep eye contact for longer and longer. Lets say he does it reliably for 10 seconds, then I will reward him. Next time I aim for 15 seconds, but he breaks eye contact. Do I then say “no”? Then ask him to start again? I’m not getting him to keep it for longer.


    Minette Reply:

    long, short long short long medium. Switch up when you are rewarding

    And, I think you would benefit greatly from my videos on teaching this principle. info@thedogtraininingsecret.com and she can get you on the list for the new class


  20. When she was a puppy, Susie always let me know when she needed to go to the toilet and barked if I was taking too long, as if to say “hurry up”.She is now 10 years old. She was only desexed 2 1/2 years ago as the Vet thought it was too dangerous for her as she was having frequent seizures that lasted about 1 hour. The medication does help and when she gets a seizure now, it is not as violent. The problem now is that she can’t wait and pees on the floor even when I have the lead in my hand, ready to take her out. I bought an indoor potty pad but she won’t use it.I have tried putting her on it and put some urine on it, as is suggested but she jumps off it.( another dog thinks that it makes a good bed). She is a little Shi Tzu. Also do you think that dogs go through menapause? as she seems to be showing signs.


    Minette Reply:

    No she needs to see the vet for that problem. They make medication called PPA that will help with the incontinence problems if that is what she is suffering from. But they will need to do bloodwork and urine


  21. Emily says:

    My two yr old mixed breed dog still pulls when I take him for a walk. If I do the leash training in my home, how will he know he can’t go to the bathroom inside? He is potty trained and I don’t want him to go inside. He is very distracted by anything outside, as he is part hunter and herder. What should I do?


  22. Emily says:

    Does leash training inside lead to potty behavior in the house?


    Minette Reply:

    No, it actually helps with potty training


  23. June says:

    I have a Bernese Pup about 8 months old, she is spayed and is really good on the leash, we go out for walks and she loves the neighbourhood kids. But she has become shy or even fearfull of men and loud noises? But the biggest problem i am having is when we are at home she will start to jump and i will tell her “down” and she gets really angry and starts to bite my arm and pull clothing, I have had this happen even if im just sitting there and she wants some attention but its not just mouthing its officially growling and biting? how do i get her to stop this? I am the dominant and always enter first, eat first, sit first on the couch im stumped as she doesnt do this to anyone else … i really need help!!!


    Minette Reply:

    All that dominant dog stuff has been disproven. Humans can’t be the “dominant dog” we aren’t dogs.

    I suggest lots more exercise. A lot of time puppies bite when we aren’t meeting their needs physically and mentally.

    If you really feel it is aggression, I suggest you contact a veterinary behaviorist to help you. Read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/recommend-veterinary-behaviorist-dog-trainer/


  24. Jaye says:

    We have a 7/m old Tri color collie, rescued. He weighs now 55#. Beautiful, but a beast. Normally, he us good, but at least 2x throughout a day he goes into berserk mode, jumps all over furniture, jumps on us, growls, chases the cats around. When I can catch him, try and settle him. Eventually it works, but not always. He too has motion sickness, and being a puppy, can’t leave him alone. If you walk away for 5 minutes to a different part of the house, he will eat something, tv remote, my cell phone, pillow, mail, doesn’t really matter. He even ate his toy box. I know some of this is puppy life, but does anyone have any suggestions, please help


    Minette Reply:

    I think he is clearly telling you he wants more exercise and training.

    he isn’t being stimulated enough so he is entertaining himself


  25. Joan Boase says:

    When your dog won’t stay in the back seat, get a dog seatbelt, hook it to the car seat belt, with enough room to stand, sit, and lie down, and with a treat or two, the back seat will be where they want to be.


  26. Jackie says:

    I have a 7 month old and I use the extended leash and she does pull when we go for a walk. How hard is it to start the other method to control her pulling?


  27. Donna says:

    I rescued a full German Rottweiler , at 1 yrs old , who was left alone 12-14 hrs 6 days a week , he still has a little separation anxiety , and when someone walks by the house ,he scratches at the window and goes totally crazy, he’s broke 2 windows doing this , and when anyone comes over he gets so excited and worked up , he jumps on people , at 178 lbs it’s a bit much , even tho he’s loving and kissing them and when they sit down he sit’s with them and demands to be pet or rubbed and if they stop , he actually will hit them in the face with his paw , getting punched in the face by a dog , is shocking , painful , and just wrong , and if I put him away or outside when people come over he gets mad and will do his best to to get me mad , by peeing and pooping in the house , and if I go somewhere more than 3 hrs , he’ll go in the house as much as he can , and he was never socialized , he’s come along way in training , but no matter what I do , I just can’t get him to stop doing these 3 things , please help , anything information will be greatly appreciated , thank u. Donna


  28. dolores lucas says:

    well my dog wii go to the food pai ask for more dry food i give 2 cup in the AM and to cup pm his tallk at pm ask more food now he got hurt try get to use the steep the bed, and brark other dogs i dont wait baby to get hurt how to show how use the step.


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