6 Common Puppy Training Mistakes You’ve Already Made

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I never had a dog in college, but my friends did and I think they made just about every common puppy training mistake in the book.

Of course I didn’t know any better at the time because as a kid anything I learned about dog training was from word of mouth.

We always had a family dog, but we never took him to a puppy kindergarten or a basic dog obedience training class.

When I picked up Linus nearly 8 years ago I was determined that I would have a well-behaved dog.

That’s why I started reading puppy training books well before picking up my first puppy.

I’ve mentioned this before and I’ll say it again if you’re getting a puppy and there is one book you’d like to read I highly recommend picking up and reading Puppies For Dummies. I’ve read it several times and own all 3 editions.

6 Common Puppy Training Mistakes

Crate Training Dublin
Dublin loves sleeping in his crate!

Today I wanted to discuss 10 common puppy training mistakes that I’m sure we’ve all made during our years of puppy raising.

In fact many of these mistakes I never even knew about until I started studying the art of dog training!

We’re going to go David Letterman style today and do the countdown list starting with:

#6 – You use the command “No” with your puppy’s name

We have an ongoing joke in our family that my brother’s dog’s name is “NoGeorge” because he’s constantly saying “No, George”

Why is this a big mistake?

You really don’t want to associate anything negative with your pup’s name.

Anytime your puppy hears his name he should come bolting to you.

However, if you’re always associating the negative command “No” along with your puppy’s name he will become hesitant when he hears his name and he will be confused.

#5 – You don’t start training your puppy from Day 1

In the past people thought that puppies didn’t start learning until they were 6 months to a year old.

This is definitely not true.

Why is it important to start training from day 1?

Your puppy is learning new things the day he comes home.

So it’s a good idea to start teaching him good behaviors rather than letting him pick up bad ones on his own.

If you don’t think you can start teaching and training a puppy from Day 1 then check out this video of me working on Dublin’s sit-stay when he’s only a few months old:

#4 – You repeat commands to your puppy

I have nothing against you if you do this because after 8 years of working with my puppies and other people’s puppies I still repeat commands.

It’s very difficult to overcome.

Why is it not good to repeat commands?

Because your puppy may start to think that “sit, sit, sit, sit, sit” means “sit”.  In other words you may accidentally train your puppy to respond to actually put his bottom to the ground after you say the 5th “sit”.

#3 – You scold your puppy (or push his nose into the mess) when he has an accident in the house

When I was in college my roomate used to do this with his puppy and guess what?

There were land minds all over the house and the puppy never learned that he was not supposed to potty in the house.

His pup never understood house training and my roomate never understood how to potty train a puppy.

Why is it not a good idea to scold your pup after he has an accident in the house?

Dogs live in the moment.

Unless you catch him in the act he has no idea that you are scolding him for the accident he made 5 minutes ago.

He more likely thinks you’re getting mad at him for whatever he is doing at the moment.

I’ve mentioned this before, but here’s what you should do if you find your puppy had an accident in the house: My Favorite Puppy Training Tip.

#2 – You don’t use a crate with your puppy because you think it is cruel

I hear it all the time…why do you put your puppy in a cage? That’s so cruel!

It’s actually not cruel and with a bit of training your puppy will learn to love his crate.

Crate training is a great way to house train your puppy and also it will keep your puppy out of trouble (chewing, digging, raiding trash cans, and soiling floors).

QUICK RECOMMENDATION: If you decide you would like to crate train your puppy we highly recommend the MidWest Life Stages Double Door Crate. We got one for Linus and still use it 10+ years later.

Why is a crate not cruel?

Dogs are den animals who feel comfortable when they are sleeping in a covered area.

Dogs feel calm in the security of a den.

Linus my first puppy automatically goes into his crate because he feels comfortable there. He also used to find other den like areas when the crate wasn’t available like our guest bathroom and the closet.

You may have noticed that many dogs will choose to sleep in places in the house that resemble a den like under a table, a desk, or alcove.

I always noticed my puppies used to squeeze into tight corners which was probably another instinct to find a den like place to sleep.

#1 – You cuddle and reassure your puppy when he is scared

There’s a discussion going on in the comment section saying that some dog trainers no longer consider this true (or may have never thought it was true)…check out the discussion and let us know your thoughts. 

It’s in our nature to reassure our children when they are scared, so why would it be any different when your puppy is scared?

Why shouldn’t you reassure a a scared puppy?

You don’t want to coddle your puppy when he is afraid of something that cannot harm him.

A good example would be thunder.

QUICK TIP: If you’re puppy is having some anxiety problems we’ve had some moderate success with the Thundershirt (Raven and Linus both have their own Thundershirt). While it doesn’t work with every dog we have heard that it’s absolutely life saving for others.

Do not pet and reassure your puppy in these situations otherwise he’ll there is something to be fearful of and repeat the behavior the next time he experiences the same scary situation.

Instead of rewarding fearful behavior try giving your puppy a command and rewarding him for that behavior.

This will help get your puppy’s mind off the scary situation.

That’s it!

6 common puppy training mistakes that I’m sure we’ve all made.!

Way back before I brought home my first puppy, Linus I probably would have made all 6 of these mistakes (and more).

How about you?

Do you have any other common puppy training mistakes you’d like to add to the list?

Leave us a comment!

QUICK RECOMMENDATION: Before brining home our first puppy we made sure to read and absorb as much information about raising and training puppies. One of the best books we picked up was Puppies for Dummies. This book helped set a great foundation for us before we brought home our little buddy, Linus.

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48 Comments

  1. Of course, I cuddle and support my thunderphobic dogs; I would do the same for children. I don’t over-due it but to me, it’s common sense. I make sure they know they are safe and if that means some stroking, so be it.
    Crates allow me to control my puppy, house train them (the last one I adopted out was perfectly house-trained by the time she left); I use Dr. Dodman’s suggestion of a small crate (bedroom) inside a larger crate – I then am able to put potty pads behind the bedroom crate and her food in front of it. Works wonderfully: she has space to move and when she realizes I’m not putting her in my lap, I watch her go into her bedroom to sleep :).
    This same puppy knew sit, down and wait before leaving at 3 month of age.
    People are shocked when I tell them to start training from day one; use their nose! Lure them to where or what you want them to do; it may take a bit for them to understand but practice, practice.
    Thank you for dropping “no.” If I don’t want my dog/puppy to do something, I don’t use their name and say “leave it” consistently.
    Very good post.

    1. Hi Roberta,

      I never heard of the Dr Dodman’s suggestion of a small crate (bedroom) inside a larger crate. That’s very interesting. We follow strict rules for our guide dog pups when it comes to crate training, but it’s definitely something to think about if I’m ever working with rescue pups or my own personal pets. Thanks for stopping by!

      Take care,
      Colby

  2. Colby,
    You made a lot of sense here. One thing I would add is that when I bought my first dog crate it was a plastic air crate and he couldn’t see out of it. After a few sleepless nights I got him a wire cage and he did much better. He was potty trained in a week and most importantly, I lived with roommates. If I didn’t get up, he wouldn’t cry, no matter what hour my roommates came home. Now Yzerman is 3 and if he wakes up and is concerned, he’ll get me up. If I go back to sleep, he will too. Besides you’re advice I have taken this to heart as well. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOW0IKO_zfM
    Thanks for all the Help Colby and Puppies!
    -Martin and Yzerman

    1. Hi Martin and Yzerman,

      Thanks for the link to the video. I’m watching it as we speak! Regarding the wire vs plastic crate I’ve heard varying opinions about the 2 types of crates. I’ve used a wire and plastic crate with my puppies and I haven’t really had a problem with either. However, I’ve also heard that some pups like the plastic crates or the wire crates with a blanket over the top because they feel more enclosed and secure. Over the years I’ve come to realize that every individual puppy is a little bit different so if one thing is not working then you might try another. I usually start with the open air wire crate, but if my puppy is crying all night I’ll try throwing a blanket over the top or try my smaller plastic crate. I will try just about anything when my pup is howling in the middle of the night and just in case you decide to get another puppy here’s a list of things I’ve tried (and a few I haven’t) when crate training my pups: Crate Training Puppies.

      Thanks!
      Colby

  3. The mistake I still make all the time is repeating commands. I really have to catch myself. My dog definitely waits for the second or third command at times. Bad human!

    1. Hi Lindsay,

      That’s definitely a hard habit to break. I usually catch myself, but I still make that mistake too.

      Take care,
      Colby

  4. Ah yes, the age old mistakes. I guess the first time I had a dog… I had so many of those. Back then, I didn’t have that much of a say in the matter especially since my mom wouldn’t allow me near them so I would need to sneak out while she would be busy doing chores. We were never allowed to have pets inside, either.

    I think I’ve perfected the sit sit sit to just one sit. But now, I have to teach everybody at home about almost everything you’ve said because if they’re not following these set of rules, that’s a training set back.

    Huggies and Cheese,

    Haopee

    1. Hi Haopee,

      You brought up one of the most difficult parts about dog training…getting everyone else in the house to follow the same rules. I originally trained Linus not to get on the furniture or beds. I went on vacation for a week while my parents took care of Linus and when I came home he was jumping all over the furniture. It’s tough to stay consistent with your training if everyone else in your family does not follow the same rules.

      Thanks for stopping by!
      Colby

      1. I totally agree. I’m always strict for the “NO Begging” rule and so far Peanuts and Chooey have followed them excellently.

        But then, my mom looked at Chooey and thought of how cute she was. And since she’s so tiny, she didn’t seem like a threat when it comes to being given food. Now my mom is driven crazy by the thought of Chooey always tagging along by her side and whining to get in her room.

        By the way, I hope you don’t mind me linking you in a thread. http://petskeepersguide.com/forums/Thread-Colby-Morita-s-6-Common-Puppy-Training-Mistakes

        Huggies and Cheese,

        Haopee

        1. Hi Haopee,

          No problem, thanks for linking to my blog post. Yes! Someone else feels my pain…my parents (the grandparents) love spoiling my dogs. I even caught my dad giving Linus a french fry…arrrggghhh. That’s why they never get to watch the guide dog puppies.

          Colby

  5. Hey Colby,

    I just loved watching the video of Dublin – I can’t believe how quickly he ate his food, he makes me feel slow! 🙂

    Some great tips here, though I never did get to liking my crate, I think I’d have liked it a lot more if there wasn’t a door on it, I like to be independent and I proved even when I was a young pup that I could be good if I didn’t have to go in the crate, Mum’s not sure if that was the right thing to let me do, but I’m glad it lives in the garage! 🙂

    Wags to all

    Your pal Snoopy 🙂

    1. Hi Snoops!

      I’m glad you liked watching Dublin when he was a puppy chomping on his food. When I rescued Linus we used the crate until he was house trained. After he was house trained we stopped using his crate, but he continues to go into the crate even today. We only have one crate that we use with Apache, but Linus is always in it taking a nap.

      Thanks for stopping by!
      Colby

  6. My puppy is often fearful and nervous. I have been told losts of advice, sometimes conflicting. Don’t cuddle, distract, flood (exposing her to lots of what she gets nervous about), ignore, thundershirt, exclude etc etc. All have been marginally good but her response of nervousness and fear keep returning eventually. She also barks and lunges if she thinks she is being cornered/trapped by these scarey things. Trainers are still perservering but I think there are pretty bamboozled too. Would love to see what you find in your research.

    1. Working with a fearful dog is a on going process. There isn’t a quick fix. Right now her emotional response to the “scary stuff” is to attempt to get away, or get it away from her. We have to change her emotional responses using counter conditioning, and desensitization.

      I have a dog whose first reaction to things that scary him, is to bark, lunge and bite. His actions are based off of (unfounded) fears, but yet they are still there. In a nut shell, we had to teach him that the appearance of those things he’s found scary weren’t bad. In fact treats appeared when ever that scary thing appeared, slowing changing his reaction from one of scared to one of enjoyment, as when ever dogs appear, I get food. Thus making the appearance of other dogs a good thing.

      I’ll admit I’m not an expert in this field at all, but there are plenty of groups on Yahoo who have lots of people who are! If you really are interested in helping your dog become less fearful, check out the links I mentioned above (especially the first couple) or check these groups on Yahoo. Shy K-9, Clicker Solutions, FunctionalRewards, Pos-4-Reactive. Just to name a few. :))

      1. Hi Erin and David,

        Thanks for the additional resources. I’ve actually not had too many problems with the guide dog puppies I’ve trained (they’ve all been very confident). Linus is a rescue dog and he has always had fear issues. We’ve worked with several different trainers and while I think we’ve made things better for him I’m pretty sure he’s always going to have some fear issues. I’ll check out the groups you mentioned.

        Thanks,
        Colby

    2. Hi Carey,

      Thanks for letting us know about your puppies. Have you talked to the guide dog trainers at your school about what you should do in these situations? I agree with you that there are lots of mixed opinions when it comes to this subject as well as many other areas in dog training.

      Thanks,
      Colby

  7. I too must mention something about number six.

    I too have heard many trainers I trust advise not to “comfort” a fearful animal, so not to reinforce fear, and for a while I believed it. Now that I’ve learned different through experience, I find I don’t understand how that conclusion was reached.

    Petting more than likely won’t increase your dogs anxiety. It may not make him less scared, but it won’t make him more scared either.. and at least the humans will feel good in the process. 🙂

    However there are other things we can do as human, such as put distance between the dog and the fearful object, don’t force the dog to accept the object, teach the dog the object can be fun, desensitize the dog to the object, reward the dog for just looking at the object.. etc..etc..

    http://fearfuldogs.com/the-process-of-working-with-a-fearful-dog/

    http://fearfuldogs.wordpress.com/2008/12/20/go-ahead-comfort-that-scared-dog/

    http://www.thebark.com/content/both-ends-leash-fear-reduction

    http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&C=153&A=1612&S=0

    1. Hi Erin & David,

      Thanks for the links! I’m going to go through all of those later tonight.

      I also just replied to a comment and my response was very similar to what you said regarding putting distance between the dog and the fearful object. As I mentioned to Jen I’m going to check with our trainers to see what their stance is on this subject.

      Thanks,
      Colby

  8. Thanks for listing these! With my puppy I am pretty sure I made all of these mistakes. It’s difficult to know what to do and what works – as you get told so many different tips and techniques from so many sources! Plus what doesn’t help is my puppy is quite stubborn, so I sometimes think my training methods just aren’t working!

    1. Hi John,

      I’m glad you like the list. I’ve also received many tips and advice from many different sources. Even the #1 tip on this list is being challenged in the discussion area which I think is great. Thanks so much for stopping by!

      Take care,
      Colby

    1. Hi Jen,

      Thank you for the link to the article. I have heard that “You Can’t Reinforce Fear”. However, I have heard from several reputable dog trainers (people that I admire and trust) that you should not cuddle and reassure your puppy when he is scared. I have also been given the same advice from the guide dog organization I volunteer for. Sometimes there are conflicting opinions in the dog training world. I’m going to do some more research into this topic and see what I can find. Maybe it will be good for another blog article 🙂

      Thanks!
      Colby

      1. Granted, I would also not cuddle a puppy in the typical example scenario that’s given: walking a small dog or puppy, and when a crowd of children appears. Dog is afraid and starts growling and barking. Cuddle or no? I would not cuddle. Barking and growling out of fear aren’t behaviors that I want to reinforce, and I will redirect in those sorts of instances.

        I do think it would make another good blog!

        1. Hi Jen,

          Thanks for the example. When raising our puppies we follow the directions from our guide dog school. I’m going to check with our trainers to see what their current thoughts are on reassuring our pups when they are scared. However, every scary situation is a little bit different, but in general we usually try to redirect our pups attention by giving a command like “sit” or “down”. If our pups are sensitive to something like say the garbage truck (because it’s big, noisy, and smells funny) then we try to introduce them at first from a distance where they are not afraid and give them praise for being confident when seeing, hearing, smelling the garbage truck from a distance. Over time we slowly move them closer to desensitize them to whatever object they are afraid of.

          I agree this discussion would probably make a good blog post.

          Thanks,
          Colby

  9. Thank heaven for crates! We’d never have survived Kuster’s early puppyhood without one. We also learned not to let your puppy train you. When he was a very little guy, Kuster learned that an accident in the ex-pen earned him a hall pass. It took weeks of moving him to either the ex-pen or crate after an accident to teach him that it wasn’t going to get him what he wanted after one or two times of just letting him out. Live and learn! lol The crazy thing was he knew to go outside really quickly and would always go out there, he just saved a little to try to get out of the pen!

    It was nice to meet you at BlogPaws! 🙂

    1. That’s a good one: “…not to let your puppy train you.” If you’re not training your puppy then your puppy is probably training you. It was great meeting you too! I hope to see you again at next years BlogPaws.

      1. Although the most important piece of advice I ever got relates to your rolled up newspaper tip: “For the most part, we don’t potty train puppies, they are training US to understand when they have to go potty!”

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