This is most definitely the most common training mistake that people make. I make it too! It’s something we all do and it’s really easy to become aware of it.
As soon as you find yourself wishing your dog would stop displaying a certain behaviour, that’s when you are aware and it’s time to decide to do something about it.
As an example, it became obvious quite quickly that our youngest team member, Bear, was stalling our departure for walkies. The wasn’t because he didn’t want to go, far from it. It was because as soon as I opened the door to get my shoes, he would dance around me making it impossible to tie my shoelaces.
While he is an exceptional dancer, the excitement levels meant that he was bouncing off the walls before we had even left the house.
The dancing was regularly reinforced. He knew he was going out for walkies. That’s a big reward as walkies encompasses all of his favourite things.
This is one of many examples where the reality of life with a dog creates reinforcements and acts as a training exercise without us realising it.
It’s the most common mistake because ‘training’ isn’t about going to classes for six weeks when you have a puppy (classes are awesome… but you need to put your learning into action). Training is a lifestyle choice and our dogs are being rewarded for numerous behaviours day in, day out. It’s our lack of awareness that’s the problem!
For Bear, he now chills out on his bed while I tie my shoelaces. We didn’t start practicing that before walkies! Like every other cue, it was taught when he was chilled and we were having fun together. I’ve spent a few evenings taking my shoes on and off while he learnt that a chilled response brought the reward. Fun times!
So, remember that training is always happening. If your dog is doing something you’re not too keen on, decide what you want them to do instead and spend the next couple of weeks teaching them the alternative.