Four Common Training Mistakes Most Dog Owners Make

By Karen A. Soukiasian

The majority of dog owners believe they know how to train their dog without professional help. Maybe they do, maybe they don't. Usually, it's when the dog reaches about a year and half to two years old, they realize something is not right. That's about the time they have reached the end of their patience and want someone to come in and undo the damage, because the next move is to get rid of the dog.

The following are the four most common mistakes many dog owners make.

Lack of Leadership

Dogs instinctively follow the strongest leader. If you are not the leader they trust and respect, they will take over. To them, it's a matter of survival.

Usually it starts out with the owner being amused by their puppy or dog's little antics. Then the behavior slips into mischief and minor misdemeanors. By not remedying the situation while it was simply a training matter, it's become a full-blown felony! The dog has rebelled and has developed serious behavior problems. The owner is fuming and frustrated. Their dog neither trusts nor respects them. This is the point where they are either ready to get rid of their dog, or are on the phone pleading with a trainer to "fix it."

What few admit is, they are the reason why their dog is behaving the way it is.

Leadership is easy. It's a matter of being fair and firm. It's demonstrating to your dog, all good things come from me.

First rule of being a strong leader, there is "no free lunch." Your dog has to earn everything in life. That includes meals, walks, playtime, and car rides, not to mention your attention and affection.

Just because they are adorable and look pathetic, keep in mind, there are no entitlement programs in your kingdom. They have to work to earn their keep! Working means you give a command; it can be as simple as "sit." If your dog doesn't respond immediately, they will not get what they want. For example, if it's feeding time, give the command "sit." Wait for a response to that command. If your dog sits right away, they are immediately rewarded with their food. If they don't respond appropriately, put the bowl on the counter and walk away. Give them a minute or two to think about what just happened. Then give the command again.

Dogs learn by association. Your dog will make the connection, the faster their butt hits the floor, the faster the food is put in front of them. It won't take but a few times, and you will notice they will sit like they have lead in their tail. They have made the association when the boss is happy, life is good.

Pat yourself on the back! You have successfully reinforced in a positive way, the fact that you are the leader they can trust and respect.

Lack of Consistency

As a leader that requires trust and respect, you want to make it as simple as possible for your dog to learn the essential associations. The only way that will happen, is by being consistent. Inconsistency will only confuse them.

That is why it is so important for everyone in the family to be consistent with the dog. The dog must make the connection that humans are to be followed, not lead.

Sit the family down and discuss what will and will not be permissible. Stick to it! For the animal's sake, everyone has to be on the same page when it comes to training. If the puppy or dog is enrolled in a Puppy Kindergarten or obedience class, the entire family should participate. Dogs love and thrive on the support of their pack.

If the trainer does not allow more than one person per dog, don't waste your time and money. Find another trainer. A family pet must associate that every member of the family is their leader.

Lack of Communication

Talk to your dog. Variations of the pitch and tone of your voice conveys more in information than you realize. It reflects not only our moods, it confirms to your dog that you recognize and acknowledge them.

To our pets, the two most important factors in the relationship are to be recognized and to be acknowledged. It validates them, plus it gives them a sense of security. By talking to our dogs as much as possible, we also teach them to focus on us; which strengthen the foundation of the attachment we are working to build.

When walking your dog, talk to them. Most dog owners do not recognize that one-on-one time spent together as valuable training time. Don't waste it. Let them know when their behavior is appropriate. Calmly and passionately praise them. If their behavior is inappropriate, calmly make a firm, immediate correction. For them to make the association that particular behavior is inappropriate your corrections must be firm, timely and consistent.

Lack of Time

Owning a dog is a serious commitment of time. Unlike most cats, that prefer to grace us with their presence only when they deem us worthy, dogs require social interaction with us as much as possible. If we are unable to give them the attention they deserve and need, they can and will develop emotional and behavioral problems. By association, they have learned inappropriate behavior gets your attention. Dogs hate to be ignored. Even if you are annoyed with them, to your dog's way of comprehending the situation, any attention is better than no attention.

Make time for them. Just a few minutes of extra attention everyday is precious to them. You will see a marked difference in their moods and behaviors.

Bottom line: Be fair, firm and consistent. Communicate with and make time for your dog. It won't take long, before they will respond to you as a leader they will eagerly follow.

Karen A. Soukiasian
Article by Karen A. Soukiasian
Karen A. Soukiasian, GOOD DOG! - DOG TRAINING and BED-n-BISCUITS dog boarding and training - Owner/Trainer, St. Augustine, Florida - AKC CANINE GOOD CITIZEN and S.T.A.R. PUPPY Evaluator. Visit my website at: and