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Bad Advice

There is no shortage of opinions when it comes to training dogs. It was way too easy for me to…

There is no shortage of opinions when it comes to training dogs. It was way too easy for me to come up with a list of dog training advice I have heard over the years; no Googling needed – just bam – right off the top of my head – 1 through 5! This “bad advice” has been passed down for so long that they have become a standard for some pet owners.  That’s scary.

People will swear some of these methods work. Perhaps, in an obscure, twisted sort of way, the end will justify the means, but at what cost to the relationship with the dog and its well-being? Let’s go through the more commonly known dog training mistakes before discussing how these methods can affect your dog.

Top 5 Dog Training Mistakes

  1. If your dog poops in the house, rub its nose in it.

Whoever came up with this must have been really angry. It’s frightening to think what their point of reference was for coming up with something so crude, right? Rubbing a dog’s nose in its excrement has nothing to do with teaching it not to poop on the rug or learning how to potty outside.

I could never do it. First of all, it’s gross and unsanitary. Secondly, using force to push your dog’s head down is mean. Using force to teach your dog anything is the wrong thing to do.  What the dog ultimately learns by you physically shoving its head down is to fear you.  None of us want that.

This is one of the dog training mistakes that some pet owners swear really works. The poor dogs subjected to this horrible method may have actually learned to go potty outside – probably because they ran to the door to get away – and the owner thought, “Voila! It worked!” Meanwhile, the dog is probably still trying to figure out the connection between the poop on the nose, and the act of going to the bathroom outside.

  1. If you want to teach your dog to swim, toss it in the water for it to learn!

Not only does throwing a dog in the water create fear, but it could also be life-threatening. “Sink or swim” is not the correct technique for teaching a dog to swim. Contrary to popular belief, some dogs simply cannot swim.

Years ago, we discussed the types of dogs that can and cannot swim. While many breeds are natural-born swimmers, some dogs cannot swim at all. Stocky dogs with barrel-shaped chests and short legs, or dogs with flat faces and short snouts, are just not cut out for swimming. Throw them in the water and they will sink or drown.

Also, tossing a dog in the water may scare them so badly that they may not want to go near water again. Even dogs who are good swimmers need to acclimate to water on their own accord. The goal is to create a positive association with water, not fear and panic.*

  1. If your dog doesn’t want to walk on a leash, just drag it until it gets up and follows you.

Dogs love to go on walks. Those of you who do it regularly know that if you even look like you might be thinking about going for a walk, your dog goes crazy with excitement! This happy time could be ruined forever by first subjecting your dog to being dragged.

If dogs like walks so much, why do they resist? A dog may not like having a collar and leash put on them (at least for the first time.) Once the dog learns that the leash is an indication of something good to come, they won’t even remember ever being hesitant about wearing one. But the collar and leash have to be introduced in a positive manner. Putting them on the dog and dragging it until it walks is a terrible idea.

If your dog does not want to walk on a leash, the leash may not be the problem at all; there may be other factors at play that you are unaware of. Maybe the dog is in pain, or it is afraid of something. If your dog does not specifically seem to mind its collar or leash but still does not want to walk, a visit to the veterinarian may help narrow down what may be the case.

  1. Don’t put your dog in a crate – it’s like a jail cell for dogs.

As we discussed in our blog about crate training, a crate can be a dog’s happy place. It represents a “den” a place of comfort and safety for our dog’s ancestors. When a crate is properly introduced to a dog and used correctly, it is far from the prison we imagine it as.

The crate can be a very helpful tool for teaching your dog, especially when they are being housebroken. In truth, there are so many more times during a dog’s life when crates are helpful. The AKC has a great article covering the benefits of crating your dog.

Humans can make the crate a “jail cell” for dogs by using it in a negative fashion. We should never make a dog go to its crate as a punishment. Nor should we leave them in a crate for long periods. Again, it’s all about making positive associations for your furry friend.

  1. If your puppy bites you, bite back.

Really?  I mean, who is the animal here?

Just for fun, I texted Dickie, one of our Professional Dog Trainers at the Midlothian location of Holiday Barn Pet Resorts, and asked if we should bite a puppy back if it bites us. I received a resounding “No!”  If texts could yell, it would have been loud!

An aggressive response to a puppy biting sends the wrong message. Inflicting pain, such as biting, onto a puppy will teach them to fear and distrust you. And in doing so, how have you encouraged good behavior?

Lastly, they will bite backprobably in the face. It happens.

Avoiding Common Dog Training Mistakes

Using pain, force, intimidation, and fear can damage a dog’s mental well-being for the rest of its life. If the desired behavior is achieved through these methods, it is not because of the technique that was used, but because of some other rationale, the poor dog formulated. The mental and emotional damage to the dog has been done.

I think the main lesson we can draw from all of these examples is the importance of positive associations when training a dog. Pushing a dog’s face in excrement, throwing a dog in the water, dragging a dog on a leash all of these methods create negative associations, which are not only stressful and unpleasant for the dog, but potentially dangerous.

Providing positive associations in a dog’s life is key to making it feel safe and secure, and enabling them to flourish. Furthermore, it establishes trust between the owner and the dog.


*Learning to swim safely and confidently is so important for dogs. At Holiday Barn Pet Resorts, our Professional Dog Trainers offer swimming lessons. We have four certified Professional Dog Trainers on staff that can properly advise you on any training issue you may have. If you are interested in teaching your dog how to swim, please contact our Trainers at 804-672-2200 for our Glen Allen location or 804-794-5400 for Midlothian.

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