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4 Training Mistakes You Should Never Make

Written by: Renee Moen
| Published on March 2, 2015


There are a thousand different ways to train a pup. Since every dog has their own unique personality, cookie cutter training, or a one size fits all education doesn’t work. While a majority of pet owners ascribe to a positive based training system, there are still some that believe a dominating, physical approach to teaching is acceptable. Owners should use physical contact for praise, not punishment; building the dog up instead of tearing them down. The following no-no’s are still common training missteps that cause more harm than good. 

Related: SpiritDog’s Online Training: Is SpiritDog Really Worth It?

1. NEVER rub a dog’s nose in the carpet or anything else

Rubbing a dog’s nose into the carpet after a potty accident sends two messages to the dog. One—this human is really scary and mean and two—I must steer clear of the scary, mean human. Dog’s short term memories are extremely limited. By the time the owner gets hold of the dog to “discipline” him for peeing on the carpet, the dog has no idea what the infraction was. While their short term memories are limited, imprints of incidents causing fear or excitement may linger for years. They might not remember why they’re afraid of the human, but the fear will remain until the trust is rebuilt.

Instead of rubbing the dog’s nose in its urine, clean the spot up and redouble potty training efforts by taking the dog out every hour. Praise the dog when they go outside, keep the dog leashed and close until they are alerting their human to go out every time.

2. NEVER hit a dog with a newspaper (or anything else).

There was a huge misconception when I was growing up about hitting a dog with a rolled up newspaper instead of the hand. If this is done, the dog won’t be afraid of the owner’s hand. Well that may be true, but the dog will still quake at the scary, mean human wielding the paper. Remember the two messages being sent in the potty training section? Same messages are sent when a dog is thwacked on his snout or his rump

Disciplining a dog doesn’t work well, or often. Set a dog up to succeed by teaching them the effective cues of “Leave it” or “Drop”. Practice these cues every day and praise the dog often when they do what is asked; leaving a pair of designer shoes alone or dropping the family cat.

If it’s necessary to put the dog in a “time out” while a mess is being cleaned, calmly send him to his crate. If he isn’t crate trained, a useful cue is “To your spot” a designated area that is solely his to relax and de-stress.

3. Don’t jerk or yank your dog’s leash

Some trainers still advocate tugging or pulling on a dog’s leash to correct walking mishaps. A choke collar may also be suggested, with the assumption that a dog has to breathe, eventually they’ll figure out not to pull. When a leash is pulled or yanked, the collar is pulled and in turn hurts the dog’s trachea. This could cause long term damage if the dog never learns how to properly walk on a leash. Instead of fighting a losing battle, opt for other walking methods. Try a front lead harness. It saves wear and tear of a dog’s throat and gives the owner a little more control over guiding the dog.

4. Curb climbing on counters and furniture safely

Most dogs enjoy snuffing around the kitchen floor looking for bits of yumminess dropped by their unsuspecting humans. Occasionally dogs will take this to the next level by counter or table surfing; or climbing up onto the counter to forage for food. Some professional trainers tell owners to set mouse traps onto the counters and table tops to discourage this bad habit. Impressionable dogs will hear the clack, clack, clack of the traps and be scared straight. If an owner is lucky, being scared is all that will happen.

Instead of scaring the dog into submission, try to redirect the dog’s interest with a bone or an after dinner “treat” while things are put away. Make sure all temptation is out of his range of smell. Don’t underestimate a determined pooch! If he knows the cake is hiding under a lid on the counter, he will find a way to get to it. Put the cake away in a cupboard. If there is no reward for surfing, (tasty treats to lick up) eventually the behavior will diminish. When the dog is caught in the act, calmly use the command “Leave it!” or make a negative sound to let him know this behavior is unacceptable. Getting angry or yelling at the dog will only teach the dog to be sneaky about it in the future.


Renee Moen is a certified dog trainer and veteran shelter employee. Specializing in basic obedience and behavior modification, she recognizes each dog for their unique qualities and utilizes those for positive training experiences. Renee is an advocate for dispelling breed myths and denouncing breed discrimination.  All dogs are created equal, owners on the other hand…

 Living in sunny Longmont, Colorado with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats and five birds, Ms. Moen is also an accomplished writer with five romantic comedies to her credit. She enjoys hiking in the foothills (with her fur babies), roller skating and swimming.




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