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 roommate 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 roommate 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 an 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 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 your 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 bringing 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.

Top Picks For Our Puppies

    We Like: Calmeroos Puppy Toy w/ Heartbeat and Heat Packs - Perfect for new puppies. Helps ease anxiety in their new home.
    We Like: Natural Farm Bully Sticks - All of our puppies love to bite, nip, and chew. We love using Bully Sticks to help divert these unwanted behaviors.
    We Like: Crazy Dog Train-Me Treats - We use these as our high-value treats for our guide dog puppies.
    We Like: The Farmer's Dog - A couple months ago we started feeding Raven fresh dog food and she loves it! Get 50% off your first order of The Farmer's Dog.

Check out more of our favorites on our New Puppy Checklist.

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  1. I love this article! These are such great tips for puppy owners. It’s refreshing to see a great accurate article on puppies. My husband has been a professional dog trainer for 20+ years, we run a business together training dogs in California. We see so many new clients who have behavior issues in their dog’s adolescence and adulthood that might have been easily prevented if owners were educated with good advice like this! While all the advice is good… #5 is a big one! (You don’t start training your puppy from day one.) The majority of dogs that we see requesting Behavioral Evaluations are from unhappy pet owners wanting to just begin their training at 6 months of age! I definitely don’t fault anyone though, and definitely advocate training at any age. You’ve inspired me to start and article as a continuation with #7… Leaving your puppy unsupervised with the kids and little ones. While many of their play behavior is cute as a puppy (play biting, paws-on, running around the house and snuggling), they quickly become problem behaviors as adults. It’s a shame because there’s just so much misinformation about what the right thing is to do with puppy out there. Thanks for a great read. Can’t wait to start on your other great advice to share with clients 🙂

  2. My boyfriend and I picked up our puppy Piper almost a month ago, and the crate has been a godsend. We messed up at first, since she cried all night the first night we took her out and let her sleep where she wanted (she chose the hardwood floor, dogs are weird!). After about a week of that, however, she chewed our drywall while we slept and we realized the crate was necessary. After a few nights of crying (her) and frustration (us) she now sleeps through the night. She’s a Great Pyrenees mix, so she’s big for 12 weeks, which is great because she can now hold her bladder all night and doesn’t wake us up for pee breaks. She’s also mastered sitting and lying down on command, though we’re still working on the “off” command (she keeps jumping up against the counters and table.) Shes also part Catahoula so she’s very vocal and has recently started howling if we crate her while she’s really worked up. Anyway, short version is that I’ve totally made these mistakes but correcting them has been very worth it.

    1. My son’s puppy is being trained by him with the active support of a private certified training organisation as a support dog for his complex PTSD. Although I am pro-crate training we deliberately did not crate his pup at night because his pup needs to sleep with him to help calm him when he wakes from nightmares. It has been very effective even though his pup is very young still. If some people would like to have their pup sleep with them this is our setup for preventing puppy oopsies at night.

      My son has a king size bed surrounded by a pen and the floor is lined with heavy rubber flooring in case of accidents. The pup sleeps on the bed, but has his own ramp leading down from the bed as we don’t want to risk injury by him jumping off the bed. The whole bed, plus a bit of the room, is basically inside a penned area with the puppy’s crate and water bowl so he can go down to the floor and have some water or just lie in his crate if he so chooses. That way he has the ability to do his own things without getting into trouble by chewing on inappropriate things if he wakes at night. We did train him initially to use an indoor puppy loo and it is still available to him at night, but he was never very keen on it and at 10 weeks is fully potty trained.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big proponent of crate training, but I just wanted to mention that in some cases sleeping on the bed is needed because it encourages the kind of attentive relationship and behaviour we cannot train for in dogs that have to support people with conditions like diabetes, PTSD etc. Because his pup sleeps with him, the pup is able to respond instantly to my son needing him during the night without my son having to wake up completely and look for his dog while he is still anxious from his dreams. As the pup is a golden retriever and they get hot easily I have no doubt his pup prefers the cool floor to the bed most of the time, but as he’s still little this setup allows for him to be close to my son when he needs to him and vice versa. Incidentally this puppy has not cried a single night since coming home and has an exceptionally close bond with my son which I believe is due to sleeping on the bed with him.

  3. I had to convince my husband to crate train our dogs when we first got them. He thought it was cruel. Instead he wanted to leave them in the back yard all the time. We live in Florida and it gets very hot. I won and our dogs are crate trained and they love their crates. This also give us a place to keep them when it’s too hot or rainy outside. They are indoor/outdoor dogs and after 7 years I can’t imagine life without them.

    1. There is a lot of controversy with crate training, but we don’t know what we would do without our crates. Nowadays we leave them open throughout the day and with four dogs and two crates theres not enough space. Archer will sometimes double up with Raven…

  4. I just got puppy and our first night they told us to start crate training as soon as we brought him house its the first night an he has cried all night help i feel bad and my husband don’t want to hear him cry so he took him out because he too feels bad how do i stop jim from crying cause he wants out any suggestions would be great

  5. Pampering: It’s extremely difficult to not want to pamper and spoil your adorable little fur ball. This however, is another most common puppy house training mistake that people make; especially, when it comes to food. If your puppy refuses to eat what’s put on his plate, don’t keep offering him treats until he shows an interest in something. Dogs will not starve themselves. Sooner or later, your puppy will eat what’s given to him whether or not he thinks it tastes like pepper steak. Giving him what he wants at the puppy stage will ensure you have a full-fledged spoilled brat of a canine companion with seriously expensive dog-food bills to boot.

  6. Hey Colby! Another great post 😀 We read puppy training books before we got Popcorn too and like you we hope to train Popcorn the best way we know how. That’s why it’s always wonderful to read your posts. We continuously learn about new tricks, training techniques, and puppy/dog related know hows from you here. 😀 Thanks for sharing with us valuable information about Training! 😀

    1. I’m glad you find some of our information useful. I’m constantly reading about new ways to train my pups and post most of the information here on the blog. If you have any questions please feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to answer.

      Have a great weekend!

  7. I never had my own pup until we joined the SA Guide-dog Association (http://www.guidedog.org.za/) puppy walker programme, and brought Volt home. SAGA sent home a manual that I studied furiously in the first few days and I had no idea just how intensive his training would be. They had told me to start his training the moment we got in the car however, so there was no waiting, but I wanted to kick myself every time I found something in the manual that I had been doing wrong or hadn’t done!
    Volt is now 8 months old and doing really well in the programme, and we adopted 3 month old Riddick a little while ago. He’s not going to be a guide-dog as he was born (at SAGA ironically) without pupils in his eyes so he’s mostly blind.

    1. Hi Angel,

      That’s awesome that you’re training Volt and so wonderful of you to adopt Riddick. I’m glad the training is going well. I still make all kinds of mistakes during training. the good news is usually catch myself in the middle. Saying the same command more than once is a tough habit to break.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Another important thing to understand when puppytraining is that positive reinforcement works much better than negative reinforcement. It was not uncommon in the past for individuals to strike an animal or yell at it when it made a mistake. Even today, owners often rub a dogs nose in a mess when it relieves itself indoors.

    1. Old habits die hard. It wasn’t until I got a puppy of my own and started puppy kindergarten and obedience that I realized these were old and incorrect ways of training. Some are just plain mistakes. I really enjoy using praise and positive reinforcement when working with my dogs.

  9. Great post, Colby. My biggest mistake was not using a crate with my first dogs, Agatha and Christie. As a novice dog person, I assumed they wanted to be together when actually, they would have benefitted mightily from having their own secure place to go away from each other.

    Honey is fine with her crate and it was a lifesaver when I was taking her to work with me for socialization and house training. No, it was less to keep her out of trouble and more to keep my clients from getting distracted by the cute puppy when I was trying to help them fix their credit or figure out how to afford a new house. 🙂

    1. Hi Pamela,

      It’s really convenient having your pups crate trained especially when their just little guys. We have to constantly watch our guide dog puppies and every once in a while I need a little break (and so do the pups).

      Take care,

  10. I use a crate with my Dachshunds. The thing is though, I don’t follow the “rules”. I know they say to get them a crate just big enough for them to stand up and turn around. Also, they say to make it like a den – dark. Well, my dogs were totally freaked out by these things. Now they each have their own “big dog” wire crate with plenty of space (covered entirely with a bed) and light and they are fine.

    As for comforting your dog, that is my first instinct. I also tried the “avoidance” technique where I put more distance between her and what was bothering her when she started to bark or growl. With her, both ended up reinforcing the behavior. Since my goal is to increase her confidence and positive interaction with dogs I have been working with her to stay near the situation but distract her with treats so she learns that the “aggravatior” is actually a good thing for her.

    1. Hi Jessica,

      I have a wire crate that adjusts in size. My lab pups start off with only about 1/4 of the crate and I increase the size as they grow. I usually don’t make the crate dark like a den unless my puppy is having some adjustment problems in which case I’ll usually try just about anything to get him to go to sleep. Here’s a list of 14 things I’ve tried (and some I haven’t) when crate training: https://puppyintraining.com/crate-training-puppies-14-useful-tips/.

      Thanks for sharing your experiences. It does not surprise me that different things work for different dogs.


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