Basic Puppy Training The Top 3 Mistakes People Make

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Basic Puppy Training The Top 3 Mistakes People Make

by Jill Badour

The story's a familiar one: a person buys a cute puppy, and then takes him home only to find that housetraining isn't going well, the pup chews up expensive furniture, and then when the puppy grows up, he can be aggressive with people or other dogs.

In my practice as a professional puppy trainer, I've found that 99% of problems with a pup misbehaving boil down to these three mistakes:

Basic Puppy Training Mistake #1: Underestimating your puppy's need for mental stimulation

One of the worst culprits for common puppy problems is boredom. There is no end to the mischief a bored puppy can get into, from digging a hole to China to bringing the police to your doorstep when the neighbors complain about the incessant barking. One of the biggest mistakes people make with their puppies is underestimating their need for mental stimulation. Dogs are intelligent creatures who crave more than the occasional walk to burn off steam and expend energy.

In fact, fifteen minutes of a mentally stimulating activity can burn off as much of your pup?s energy as a quick jog around the block!

Basic puppy training mistake #2: Using punishment-based training

Imagine you?re walking through your home and reach to pick up a book you think looks interesting. You leaf through it and then put it down again on a nearby table. A few minutes later your brother walks into the room. He is looking for his book when... Whack!

You are suddenly being attacked by your brother. He?s hitting you repeatedly in the face with a rolled up newspaper. He?s screaming in what sounds like a different language to you. He?s obviously angry, but you?re not sure what caused his fury. As quickly as the attack started, it stops. Your brother sits down on the other end of the couch.

What just happened? Your brother acted like a crazy person for no apparent reason. If you think about it enough, you may come to the conclusion that the punishment had something to do with the book, but you?re not positive. You reach for the book again, and again your brother flies at you screaming and wielding the rolled up newspaper.

How do you react? You may drop the book and slink away to get away from your crazed brother. You may fight back, using the book to whack your brother.

And the most important question, how do you feel about your brother now? Mistrustful? Angry? Afraid of him? All of these things? Now, you may think no normal person would treat their siblings, or anyone else, this way. The idea is more than distasteful, it?s horrifying, and you might expect a person who treated you like this to go get some counseling for his uncontrollable outbursts.

Why, then, is it perfectly acceptable for us to treat our dogs like this? For a long time, this is exactly how trainers instructed us to train our pets. Many of us grew up thinking dog training meant using choke collars to teach our dogs to walk on leash, using a rolled up newspaper to teach our dogs not to pee on the carpet, and using a knee to the chest to teach them not to jump on us. Let?s consider the example above to figure out some of the problems with using these types of punishment-based methods to train our dogs:

  • Unless punishment is timed perfectly, it is ineffective in keeping your dog from repeating the behavior.
  • If your puppy is able to perform a behavior with no effects when you aren?t around, but he gets punished for it when you are, all you?re teaching him is not to perform the behavior in your presence.
  • Punishment may elicit an aggressive response.
  • Punishment may weaken the relationship you have with your dog.

For those reasons, it's far more effective to use positive training methods instead of punishment-based methods.

Basic puppy training mistake #3: Failing to properly socialize your pup

Socialization is exactly what it sounds like. It?s making sure that your puppy is comfortable and safe in a variety of situations and around all types of people. Dogs seem to go through a critical period of development during their puppyhood that lasts until they reach about sixteen weeks of age. During this period, they are open to new experiences that are introduced in a positive way.

After this period, however, the window closes, and it?s much harder for your dog to adapt to new situations and people.

Some of the consequences of a lack of proper early socialization include:

  • Anxiety and stress in unfamiliar surroundings.
  • Anxiety and stress in the presence of unfamiliar people.
  • Phobias about new experiences or people.
  • Aggressive displays such as growling, snapping and biting when faced with new people.
  • Aggressive displays when being handled in a manner in which he isn?t accustomed (e.g., having his nails clipped, having his tail pulled, having teeth brushed, being groomed or bathed, and being examined at the vet).

At best your unsocialized dog is going to be stressed when he?s in an unfamiliar situation. At worst, he can do some serious damage to someone in an attempt to defend himself from a person or situation which he perceives as frightening.

Jill Badour is a professional puppy trainer who teaches positive training methods that are simple and effective for anyone. Visit her Puppy Training Blog at

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