You’re not alone when running into trouble while training your dog. Depending on the dog, it can be a long and stressful process. Age can also be a factor. No, we’re not referring to the one “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” We’re meaning from puppies, adults, to seniors.
That is why we’ve put together a list of 10 reasons that are making it harder for your dog to learn.
1) Not Exercising Before Training
Whether it’s a puppy or a high energy breed dog, you’re going to have a hard time keeping their attention and focus. If it isn’t used up, it will keep them from listening. This can lead to your dog fulfilling anything and everything that interests them.
Before training, take your dog for a nice 30 minute to 1-hour walk. This will get a lot of their energy out. From new smells, new environment, and exercise, they will wear down. Bring them back home and let them rest for 10 minutes. Now they will be more receptive to training.
Exercise helps make training sessions easier. Your dog won’t be as distracted and more focused. You’ll be able to hold their attention and train more regularly. If your dog still has more energy, do more exercise. Listen to your dogs body language and attitude. They will tell you when they are exhausted or not.
2) Too Many Distractions
During training, it’s best to remove any external distractions. These distractions can range from other dogs, loud noises, people, environment, and more.
Start off by clearing out a space for you and your dog. Give them space to sniff the room before training. When they are done, their attention will shift to yours.
Cut off all potential distractions. Other dogs, children, significant other, toys, and food. We want your dog’s full attention. Not on everything else but you. Now is a good time to show them the treat in your hand. This will further incentivize them to focus on you.
If your dog does become distracted in your new space, don’t worry. Sometimes dogs have a short attention span. That is why it’s best to keep training sessions to around 10-15 minutes. During this time, you should be able to hold your dog’s attention. Especially after exercising them. They will be calmer and easier to maintain attention.
3) Not Utilizing A Clicker
When training your dog, a clicker goes a long way. It’s a method that helps the dog understand that they’ve done the command. They will work hard to make sure that clicker makes a sound. This is because they know a treat is coming immediately after hearing it.
There’s a term for this. It’s called the Pavlov Dog effect. When the dog knows you have the clicker, it will do anything and everything to get a click. It knows there is a treat on the other end of the sound. This helps during training by associating the treat to command.
If you’ve never used a clicker to train before, it’s very simple. Have it make the clicking sound and give the dog a treat. Do this on it’s own to establish a base. Now start using it when they do commands they already know. This will help further instill the behavior and reward system.
If you don’t invest in a clicker, don’t worry too much. You can still train your dog any command without one. It will take longer to train them without one but still achievable.
4) Being Too Aggressive Or Forceful
Being aggressive during training can send mixed signals to your dog. This can confuse your dog and make them either fearful or aggressive. The goal is to positively reinforce good behaviors. Most dog training articles online don’t take this into consideration. They rely upon dominance theory and pack leader mentality.
This leads down a path of aggressive or super submission. The dog may listen to you but at a cost. Here’s an example of positive reinforcement over dominance/pack leader mentality.
Your dog jumps on you when you come home. You may have read online or in shows that you are to say “No” and either lift your knee up to prevent them jumping or poke them in their side. This poking or dominant voice commands can be stressful.
The preferred method is to ignore the dog and go back out the door. Wait a minute and then come back in. If the dog jumps on you again, repeat this method. What you’re doing is denying the dog the reward of seeing you. They will start to recognize that when they jump on you, it makes you leave. You can reinforce the good behavior with a treat. Only do so when they don’t jump on you.
Do your best to not yell, hit, or be forceful. Rather than teaching them the behavior you want to associate to a command; they may start to fear you. They can also become aggressive and may bite or growl at you.
If you start to become frustrated or very angry; walk away. Stop the training session for now and come back another time. You can also consult with a dog trainer if you’re having a hard time to get some advice.
5) Using the Wrong Treats
Sometimes your dog has the wrong incentive. They may prefer chicken over beef. Hard food over soft food. Or enjoy a good old-fashioned hot dog. If your dog isn’t motivated to work for the treat, they will lose interest fast. You want something that they will work for.
Pick up a variety of flavors and treats at the store. Test one out each training session to see which one your dog likes. When you find one that they really like, stick with it.
Another substitute you can use over treats is a toy. Get your dog a variety of toys and test them out. A ball may be a better incentive than a rope. You won’t know until you try.
If you’re not sure if they will enjoy the toy or treat more, compare the two against each other. Once you have established which reward works better, use it only during training.
6) Not Taking Training Seriously
Training your dog isn’t a onetime deal. It can take some time and investment to train your dog. There are a lot of commands you can teach your dog and each one will take some time. If you start to slack off during training, your dog will never understand what you want. You may even reinforce bad behavior during this time.
You should also never stop training even after your dog has learned the command. Don’t look at it as consistent training, but as continuing education. A couple of times a week, give your dog the command and make sure they still understand the behavior. It comes down to “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” This applies to your dog as well.
We also suggest taking training out to new environments. This helps create distractions and reinforces your dog to listen to you. You want to make sure your dog really understands the command. Regardless of the surrounding distractions.
7) Not Having Enough Patience
You’re going to get frustrated from time to time. When this happens just stop the training session. Take this time to step back and try to understand what’s going wrong. Discover the triggers and avoid them next time.
Patience is a muscle we must train ourselves. Without patience, you will get tired, frustrated, angry, and give up. The old saying “patience is a virtue” stands tall here. You have to remember that your dog can’t speak in our language. Thankfully they can learn a behavior and link it to a word we say.
Imagine trying to have a conversation with someone who speaks another language. It would almost be impossible to do anything. Yet, we can break down the language barrier if we start to show what we want to happen. All good things come with time, so does training.
8) Not Being Consistent
If you’re not training on a routine schedule, you’re not being consistent. You should be walking your dog already. Let’s say you do it after dinner. When the walk is over, spend 15-20 minutes training. This practice starts to instill a routine for the dog. It will also help you get in the right mindset too.
Consistency also builds upon how often you train, session lengths, and location. Train in the same room, with the same treats, same body language, and more. This preps your dog and puts them in a better headspace.
They will know that now is the time to listen and expect to get a treat. If you decrease training sessions or stop them, your dog may start to forget. Even after the dog shows consistent knowledge of the command. You should do continual training sessions. This helps to keep commands fresh and up to date.
9) Not Praising and Rewarding At The Right Time
Sometimes we forget to praise or reward the dog for their behavior. The praise may come a few seconds after they’ve done it. If rewarded after, they won’t associate the correct behavior to the command.
One example of this is trying to teach your dog the command down. Rather than forcing the dog into a down position, you wait to observe them lie down.
If you miss them lying down but reward them anyways, the command has lost it’s affect. They will become confused and not understand why they’re being rewarded.
You want to praise and reward them immediately after performing the expected behavior. This way, they understand the associated command and behavior.
We can also send mixed signals during training sessions. An example is they know the word “No” as a bad thing but understand “wrong” as an improper behavior. Using the command “No” can sometimes send the wrong message. It may have been better to say “Wrong” instead. Be consistent with the commands you use and you won’t run into problems.
10) Not Making Training A Game
By turning training into games, you invite engagement from your dog. It also involves you in the training. Engaging your dog helps them unlock their critical thinking portions of the brain. Think of them like a child.
When a child goes to school, they are engaged in their learning. From arts and crafts, to math, all the way to science. Children learn best when they are involved in schooling. Dogs are no different.
When you turn training into games you not only keep your dog interested, but make it fun for you too. When you make learning a fun and engaging experience, it helps make commands stick better.
Learn The 10 Most Useful Tips for Training Your Dog
If you’re interested, we’ve put together an article on the 10 Most Useful Tips for Training Your Dog. We discuss tips such as the following while training your dog.
- Train Your Dog When They Are Hungry
- Restrict Freedom in the House or Outside
- Learn Dog Body Language
- Train With High Value Treats
- and more!
If you want to know more, click here or the link above to check out the 10 tips.
I know we talked about a lot of things but they will help. Especially when you start to involve each reason in your game plan. It will still be a lot of work, but in the end it will all be worth it. Taking the time to train your dog helps you build a strong bond with them. You’ll not only feel more attached to them, but they will be fonder of you.
Remember, at the end of the day, good dogs don’t exist, only good dog owners. This means its your responsibility to ensure your dog’s future. They look up to you and depend upon you. Why wouldn’t you want them to succeed, be healthy, and live a happy life? They have the same opportunity with you and I bet if they could do it for us, they would.
We hope you found this list helpful and gave you some ideas or inspiration to better train your dog! If you found something particularly useful or want to add a comment, please do so down below. We’d love to hear from you!