I have put together a collection of mistakes that are quite common and that will have a negative effect on the behaviour of your dog/puppy. All of these can however be avoided, as long as we are aware of them.
Inadvertently rewarding unwanted behaviour
Even if you don’t think of it as training, every interaction with your dog is teaching your dog something. And sometimes we end up teaching out dogs the wrong things without even realising it. The most common mistake is giving a dog attention at the wrong time. For example, giving your dog attention when barking to engage in play, to be let out, or early in the morning /at night, giving attention when jumping up or stealing objects.
You will also be rewarding excitable behaviour if putting the lead on and walking out the door when your dog is overexcited and barking or jumping about, or if letting a dog pull you down the road to get somewhere.
Not rewarding good behaviour outside of training sessions
This is a biggie! Taking good behaviour for granted is a really common mistake and many dogs get no reward or praise when they are behaving well such; as lying quietly in their basket chewing a bone when visitors are around, or when you are having dinner/watching TV, choosing not to bark or pull on the lead when they see another dog, choosing not to immediately go and jump on a person greeting them, giving eye contact when out walking, keeping close to the owner for part of the walk when off lead.
If they don’t get told that that these behaviours are good and get rewarded for them, then we should not be surprised if these don’t happen very often.
Not managing the dog and the environment to prevent bad habits forming
Allowing a dog, and especially a young puppy, too much freedom in the house and access to carpeted areas before housetrained fully or to objects on the floor and low tables they can chew is a good way of forming bad habits. As is leaving a bored dog home alone access to the rubbish bin. So is letting your dog lose around playing children or letting your dog off lead in areas of high distractions without an adequate recall response. Allowing your dog to jump up on people or practice inappropriate behaviour towards another dog will only serve to strengthen these behaviours.
Make good use of crates, baby gates, house lines, long lines e.t.c
Trying to stop unwanted behaviour by reprimanding the dog, rather than focusing on teaching the dog a more desirable alternative
Telling your dog NO is about as useful as telling a screaming little baby to stop crying. If saying NO worked to change behaviour for the better, no one would have any problems with their dogs and trainers and behaviourists would not have a job! A reprimand will, at best, only interrupt a behaviour short term. Don’t forget that many unwanted behaviours are normal and natural and instinctive to dogs, and will therefore resurface very quickly unless replaced by an incompatible behaviour through training. How will your dog know what to do unless you teach your dog how to behave?
Leaving a puppy, or young, dog to fend for itself when meeting and interacting with other dogs
This is a good way of creating a dog that is reactive and unfriendly towards other dogs. Interaction between dogs needs to be carefully supervised and, if dogs have very different play styles that risk upsetting one of the dogs, then they should not be allowed to play with each other. Dogs will very quickly learn that growling, snapping or even biting can be an effective way of keeping dogs away or avoiding unwanted attention. Rough play and puppy tumbles are not appreciated by all dogs, even if done with friendly intentions. So many times I have heard owners of lively overly playful dogs say that it will do him/her good to be told off by another dog. The problem is, that it is unlikely to do the other dog much good to have to resort to some degree of aggressive reaction to stop the over ambitious dog.
Expecting your dog to come when called when there are big distractions about
Responding to a recall in the presence of distractions is a very advanced skill that can only be achieved through months of correct training techniques and careful management of your dog when out walking. A dog that is not responding to a recall when it sees another dog is not being naughty. It just has not been trained to be able to respond under these circumstances. Would you expect you dog to be able to maintain a “sit stay” if a rabbit ran out in front of your dog or if another dog rushed up to your dog to engage in play? Probably not!
Not being the main provider of mental stimulation or fun, but leaving your dog to find this elsewhere
Dogs crave, not just exercise, but also mental stimulation and fun. If this does not get provided by the owner, the dog will seek this out elsewhere. This is often at the root of bad off lead control and unsettled naughty behaviour at home. Training and interactive play is far more settling for dogs than just running about or chasing a ball. Dogs would originally have spent much of their waking hours scavenging for food and working dogs would have had a job to do. Most dogs now get their dinner without having to do anything and don’t have a job to do, but are effectively unemployed. Boredom is not uncommon in the unemployed!