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Common Dog Training Tips: Myths or Must have's?


If you're anything like me, you've probably encountered your fair share of dog training tips on social media or amongst your circle that sound a bit too good to be true or a bit of a cliché. As a dog trainer who's all about practical and effective methods, I've come across my fair share of well-intentioned, yet misguided dog training advice and tips that I believe you would be better off taking with a grain of salt.


So, today I thought we might take a look at a few of these so you can assess and decide for yourself.



Dog training requires food


a brown dog
Dogs enjoy many other things besides treats

People who are looking at dog training from the perspective of needing treats for your dog to want to do the right thing for you are looking at dog training in a very one-dimensional way.


Dogs enjoy value or are rewarded by so many things.


Food, toys, pats, cuddles, praise, walks, and games are all obvious ones. All can be used in the training process, and some of them are happening around you organically as we speak.


But consider things a bit more outside the human vision scope and more from the dog’s perspective and you’ll see that you are doing them a disservice in thinking so one-dimensionally. They also sometimes really want to control things or people, come inside or outside, run around freely, or feel powerful.


Dogs are complex and intelligent creatures and believing in the absolute need for treats, beyond anything else, when training them does them a disservice, and does your training no good, as you could be inadvertently rewarding the very behaviours that you are trying to fix in some situations.



If they don’t want to do it now, try again later


a white puppy sits
A puppy being prompted to sit even when distracted

The most awesome scenario in dog training is the one in which your pooch is a willing participant – he wants to please you, he’s keen to work, even driven to learn.


Wouldn’t that be magnificent if yours were one of those?


But the reality is that in the moment of training, they are not necessarily going to be a willing participant, but it’s still a teaching moment whether they are participating willingly or not.


And you are about to lay a very important foundation for your training.


Are you going to go with ‘Oh he doesn’t want to do it now, we’ll try again later when he’s less distracted, less boisterous or less energetic’?


Or are you going to go with ‘Actually I want him to learn that he has to listen and comply with my requests even when he’s distracted, boisterous or perhaps worried’?


The first is an attitude that builds obedience into something that no longer resembles obedience. However, I prefer making sure that the puppy or dog complies with commands whenever you give them, ensuring that you end up with obedience that is solid.


You’ll have a dog who complies with your commands or rules, even when their kryptonite is presented because they know that they need to.


If your dog is biting you, distract them with a toy


a white dog biting
A mouthy young dog

So, puppies and young dogs do nip, mouth and bite – that’s a given. It’s super normal. Some do it to a minor degree and some are total piranhas. They will naturally explore and play using their mouths. Whilst this is natural, they must begin to learn to interact with us in ways that are acceptable to humans, and this means no biting, nipping, mouthing, or grabbing with the mouth.


For a dog or puppy who is mouthing or chewing, common advice would have you distract them with a toy that they are allowed to bite, which seems logical, however, most dogs or puppies will see this as a reward. They'll soon learn that if they want to get you to play with them then they should begin biting you or chew something. Or that they should deliberately steal something that they shouldn’t have so you’ll chase them or “trade” it for a treat or a toy they are allowed to have.


However, they are right. This is offering a reward. They are not stupid, they’ll quickly learn the best way to get a treat or game is to steal something they should not have, mouth or chew.


Start thinking about what benefits your puppy or young dog is getting out of their behaviour – and we make sure to negate that so that they either get nothing out of it or so that they get something less than desirable – whilst making sure that they always understand that there is an acceptable alternative they can choose.


If you want to socialise your dog you should take him to a dog park


puppy class
Controlled socialisation - in this case it's a puppy class

Of course, you should head off to the local dog park, that’s the place to go for socialisation.


Isn’t it?


Everyone says so.


That’s where all the dogs will be and that’s where he can go off the lead safely as there is a fence around it and he can’t run away, but he can enjoy his playtime safely.


Right?


Wrong!


The local dog park is a terrible place to go and socialise your dog or puppy and let’s have a look at the reasons why there are much better choices that you can make.


When you take your dog to the dog park:

  • You’re at the mercy of whoever is there on the day, there is no guarantee their dogs are truly friendly, that person may just think so

  • You’re at the mercy of whatever behaviour that random dog wants to throw at your dog – jumping on your dog, harassing your dog, chasing your dog, or aggressing your dog could be possibilities

  • You’re likely to be surrounded by people who are not paying attention to their dog or its behaviour, they may be busy chatting to their friends or on their phone the whole time

  • You may be surrounded by people who believe their dog can do no wrong

  • You may take the blame for your dog over-reacting to their dog being pushy, too playful or harassing

  • Your dog may be the one who is practicing, and growing skilled at, becoming an over-friendly buffoon or a bully

  • Your dog is in the perfect place to practice ignoring your commands and running off from your attempts to reinforce your commands

Instead, consider setting up controlled social interactions with a dog or dogs belonging to someone that you know and trust.


And if you do encounter unknown dogs in a public setting and want to have them interact with one another, make sure you ask first, and even then, watch your dog closely for signs of discomfort or over-stimulation AND watch the other dog for the same. Because you can be sure that the other owner won’t have a clue.


Generally, I avoid letting my dogs interact with dogs who are dragging on the lead, vocalising uncontrollably, or walking on a retractable lead and body harness, as these signs show me that the owner has low standards or zero physical control over their own dog.



They’ll grow out of it!


a border collie
A sweet but naughty puppy becomes a sweet but really naughty adolescent dog

Ok, that has potential – but what if she doesn’t? What if she grows into it?


Imagine your nippy, mouthy little puppy now using her mouth on purpose to get what she wants.

Imagine your friendly but barky young dog now starting to bark more seriously at guests, dogs, or passers-by.

Imagine your dog, who is super overstimulated but friendly, moving into super overstimulated and not-so-friendly.


It’s a very short leap.


Oh, ours would never do that!


Your dog might not go so completely astray. Yours might grow out of the current behaviours. Yours might escalate only a little.


How will you know till it happens?


Assume that they won’t grow out of it and help them train out of it and you’ll have no regrets!




So there you have it, some common dog training myths that I think have been circulating for far too long.


As busy dog owners, it's essential that you decide for yourself what you believe in and what is right for you and your dog. Just because society says so, doesn’t make it so.


Remember, building a strong bond with your dog is all about mutual trust and respect. So, the next time you hear a training tip that sounds too good to be true, take a moment to think twice and trust your practical instincts.




About A New Leash on Life Dog Training


a lady with three dogs
Zander, Keryn, Jaffa & Miki

Because I use a balanced approach to dog training if you choose to train with me, we will be using positive reinforcement and rewards, but we will not be using food. I prefer not to rely on food because I don’t want to take food with me every place I ever go, I don’t want my dogs to learn to ignore me if I have no food or run out, and I don’t want to end up in a situation where I might still be of less importance to my dog, even with food, than the dog he's playing with or bird he’s chasing etc. Additionally, I do use the word no, and I do teach a consequence process for ignoring me or for an unacceptable behavioural choice, but without resorting to fear, intimidation, or pain.


So, for me, I train my dogs the way that I feel aligns with my belief system – rewards for listening and good behaviour but without food reliance – consequences without violence for inappropriate choices.


What do you believe in?




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