Continuing in our series of the top 10 worst mistakes new dog owners make, we arrive at number 9. This mistake comes in many forms and can be seen in statements like “he only does that when he’s excited” or “He only gets table scraps when he is really good”.
Both of these statements, and many others, are the result of inconsistency while training. Dog’s learn best by being rewarded for the repetition of desired behaviors in all situations. When we train our furry friends inconsistently it is like the old adage “one step forward, two steps back”.
Clicker training specifically, and positive reinforcement training in general both rely on a dog’s ability to understand what the trainer is asking of him/her. When we allow our dog’s to make mistakes based on circumstances, such as jumping on someone–or us– when he is excited, we are communicating that that behavior is acceptable under those circumstances. This inconsistency may seem inconsequential viewed in the context of a single event in a particular situation. But many of these interactions with the same results will ingrain a behavior and make it overly difficult to fix in the future.
It is a best case scenario that the behavior in question just becomes harder to fix! Worst case scenario is that the behavior becomes extremely problematic and the new dog owner is not willing or capable to fix it. In extreme circumstances this can result in the dog being surrendered to animal services!
First time dog owner’s are especially susceptible to making this mistake. It is very easy to “give her a break” when your pup is doing something wrong, but doing it in the cutest possible way imaginable. It is also easy to allow a puppy to display behavior that will become problematic as she grows, like “mouthing” and jumping.
It is imperative for new dog owners to be as consistent as possible with their new family member. This will ensure both canine and human are on the same page. Leading to a long, happy, and loving life together!