Tips & Tricks

15 Common Mistakes to Avoid in Dog Training

dog lifestyle care

Ever dreamed of having a perfectly trained pup who listens to your every command? Training your dog can be amazing, but let’s be honest, it’s not always sunshine and belly rubs. Even the most dedicated dog parents can make mistakes that slow down progress and leave everyone feeling frustrated.

Don’t worry, though! We’ve got your back. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the top 15 mistakes to avoid in dog training.

Let’s dive in.

Mistake #1: Inconsistency in Commands

Consistency is the key to effective dog training. Using different commands or rules can quickly confuse your pup, making it harder for them to understand and respond appropriately.

Here’s the trick: get everyone in your house on the same page! Agree on the training techniques and commands you’ll use. Then, stick to those same words and actions every time. This way, your dog can quickly learn what to expect, making training smoother and way more rewarding for both of you.

adorable chihuahua dog with female owner

Mistake #2: Lack of Patience

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither are well-trained dogs. Training takes time, patience, and a gradual approach. It’s understandable to feel impatient or assume that because your dog did something once, they’ve mastered it. However, the reality is that it takes a lot of practice to solidify a behavior.

Adopt a step-by-step training plan that builds on each success. Start with lures and hand signals before introducing verbal cues. Celebrate small victories and understand that setbacks are normal. Keep a training diary or video to track your progress, and use these moments as learning opportunities to refine your approach.

girl feeding her dog treat

Mistake #3: Not Accounting for Distractions

Asking your dog to come when called in your living room is vastly different from doing the same in a park teeming with other people, dogs and tempting distractions like squirrels or rabbits. Dog trainers refer to the “three Ds”: distance, distraction, and duration – factors that directly impact the difficulty level of a given command.

Start with minimal distractions, short distances, and brief durations, gradually increasing the challenge as your dog becomes more proficient. Remember, your pup will need plenty of practice in various environments before you can truly say they’ve mastered a behavior.

dog trainer teaching dog run though obstacles

Mistake #4: Using Punishment-Based Methods

While frustration can boil over during training hiccups, resorting to harsh corrections or physical reprimands can actually hinder your progress. Yelling, hitting, or using other negative methods can damage your dog’s trust and confidence, making them fearful of trying new things or unsure of what’s expected of them. This can create a tense training environment and ultimately sabotage your efforts.

closeup shot cute adorable sad looking domestic shih poo type dog indoors

Instead, positive reinforcement techniques offer a more effective and humane approach. Rewarding desired behaviors with treats, praise, or affection encourages your dog to repeat them. This not only fosters a positive training experience but also strengthens your bond with your small pet.

Remember, dogs are not intentionally trying to be bad; they simply respond to their instincts and environment. Punishing them for natural behaviors creates confusion and anxiety, hindering their ability to learn.

Positive reinforcement, on the other hand, clarifies what you expect. It helps your dog understand what makes you happy.

veterinarian taking care of pet dog

Mistake #5: Failing to Practice Between Classes

Attending a training class once a week is not enough to create a well-behaved dog. Just like any skill, practice makes perfect. Set aside brief daily sessions (5-10 minutes) to reinforce the behaviors you’re working on. Dogs have the attention span of a toddler, so keeping sessions short and frequent is key to maintaining their focus and motivation.

high view woman her dog playing

Mistake #6: Neglecting Mental Stimulation

Dogs are smarter than we might think! Just like us, they need activities that challenge their brains and keep them mentally stimulated. A bored pup is a recipe for trouble – think barking marathons, furniture destruction, or digging up the yard.


One simple yet effective way to mentally stimulate your dog is through puzzle toys that require problem-solving skills to access hidden treats. Obedience training also exercises their focus, memory, and ability to follow instructions. Interactive games like hide-and-seek or obstacle courses tap into their natural instincts and promote problem-solving.


Different dogs may have different preferences, so observe their interests and tailor activities accordingly. Incorporating mental stimulation into their daily routine prevents boredom, promotes overall well-being, and fosters a happy, well-adjusted companion.


Mistake #7: Not Using High-Value Treats

All dogs are individuals with their own preferences, and what may be a tempting treat for one pup might not motivate another. Start by experimenting with high-value treats like small pieces of chicken, cheese, hot dogs, or freeze-dried salmon or minnows. If your dog seems uninterested in food rewards, try different options like cat food or roast beef until you find their weakness.

owner serving food bowl their pet dog

Remember, the key is finding a treat that your dog finds irresistible, as this will be the driving force behind their motivation to learn and perform desired behaviors. If your dog is already full, try training before their meals to increase their appetite and responsiveness.

Mistake #8: Not Giving Treats Quickly Enough

When using positive reinforcement, timing is everything. You want to give your dog the treat (or click the clicker and then treat) immediately after they perform the desired behavior. This helps them associate the action with the reward, reinforcing the positive association.

girl giving dog treats

To ensure timely delivery, plan ahead. Keep treats easily accessible in a pocket, treat pouch or nearby container. Pay close attention to your dog’s actions so you can reward them promptly, solidifying the connection between behavior and reward.

Mistake #9: Overfeeding Treats

While treats are an essential tool in positive reinforcement training, overfeeding them can lead to weight gain and potential health issues.

Use small, low-calorie treats or consider alternative rewards like praise, play, or their favorite toy.

 Remember, moderation is key!

smiling female with dog near fence and plants

Mistake #10: Punishing Instead of Rewarding

One of the most common mistakes dog owners make is inadvertently punishing their pups when they should be rewarding them. For example, calling your dog to you only to then put them on a leash and end their outdoor playtime can inadvertently teach them that coming when called is an undesirable behavior.

owner putting leash pet

To maintain a strong recall, always reward your dog when they come running, even if it’s just with praise and a treat. Occasionally, allow them to continue playing or exploring after they’ve come to you, reinforcing the positive association with the behavior.

Similarly, be mindful of using petting as a reward if your dog doesn’t enjoy it. Signs like lip-licking, looking away, or leaning away can indicate that your dog is stressed or uncomfortable, effectively punishing them instead of rewarding them.

dog cute animal pet puppy looking

Mistake #11: Skipping Basic Obedience

While advanced tricks and behaviors may be tempting,  but trust us, a solid foundation in basic obedience commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “come” is key.

Skipping these fundamentals can lead to frustration on both sides. Imagine your dog wanting to please you but not understanding your commands! It can be confusing for them and lead to a slow and frustrating training experience for both of you.

smiley dog sitting by water

Mistake #12: Failure to Socialize

Proper socialization, especially during a dog’s early months, is essential for their development and well-being. Exposing your pup to different people, animals, and environments helps them learn appropriate behaviors and prevents potential behavioral issues later on.

couple with their pet dogs

Mistake #13: Repeating Cues

Repeating a command multiple times (e.g., “sit… sit… sit!”) is a common mistake that can undermine your training efforts. Instead, give the cue once and wait to see how your dog responds. If they comply, reward them immediately. If not, move on and revisit the behavior later.

Repeating cues can inadvertently teach your dog that they don’t need to listen the first time, and it can also be embarrassing in public settings. If your dog doesn’t respond, try making excited noises, crouching down, or even running away to turn it into a game. Then, make a plan to practice the behavior in a less distracting environment.

pet lifestyle together with owner

Mistake #14: Not Recognizing Fear

Sometimes, a dog’s behavior can be rooted in fear or anxiety, which requires a different approach than positive reinforcement training. Dogs communicate primarily through body language, and ignoring signs of stress like trembling, growling, or avoidance can lead to misunderstandings and potential aggression.

If you suspect your dog is acting out of fear, prioritize desensitization and counter-conditioning techniques to help them overcome their anxiety before resuming traditional training methods.

beautiful border collie dog training with owner

Mistake #15: Using Aversive Training Tools

The use of shock, prong, or choke collars has been shown to carry significant risks, according to scientific research. These aversive methods can induce fear, anxiety, stress, aggression and damage the relationship between you and your pet.

While some trainers may advocate for these tools, they ultimately rely on either positive punishment (introducing an unpleasant stimulus) or negative reinforcement (removing an unpleasant stimulus) to modify behavior.

side view cute dog bathtub outdoors

In contrast, positive reinforcement techniques reward desired behaviors, making training more enjoyable and effective.

Final Words

Training your furry friend isn’t just about teaching them fancy tricks (although those can be fun, too!). It’s a rewarding adventure filled with patience, consistency, and getting to know your pup’s one-of-a-kind personality.

We want to hear from you, too! Share your training experiences, big wins, and even the funny challenges you’ve faced in the comments below. Your stories might inspire and empower other dog owners on their own training quests.


About Zelda D.Nelson

As a lifelong dog lover and proud mom to two energetic rescue pups, I know firsthand how important puzzle toys are for providing dogs with much-needed mental and physical stimulation. After over a decade of experience raising well-adjusted, happy dogs, I joined the Loobani Pet team to help other pet parents discover the joy and benefits of dog puzzles. Through my work at Loobani Pet, I've become an expert on the ins and outs of various interactive dog toys. My goal is to simplify the selection process so you can easily pinpoint the perfect puzzles to match your pup's needs and lifestyle. Whether you need a toy to challenge your brainy breed, keep your power chewer occupied, or simply provide some rainy day fun, I've got you covered.