Dogs, like people, are imperfect. That’s part of what we like about them, though, isn’t it? Still, you can’t let unpleasant behaviors and issues go unchecked. Not only is that a hassle for you – who enjoys cleaning up a puddle of piddle? – but it’s also bad for the dog because you’re angry with them more often.
Instead, you need to problem-solve. This blog post will teach you about common dog training challenges that beginners may encounter and provide troubleshooting tips to overcome them. We’ll talk about potty training difficulties, separation anxiety, excessive barking, and leash pulling. If you’re looking to navigate through training hurdles with confidence, read on!
Understanding potty training challenges
High (highest?) on the list of priorities when training a dog is getting them to “go” outdoors. Some pups are perfectly happy to do so, while some animals are very resistant. You won’t know which you’ve gotten until you start training, unfortunately – and some rescue animals may struggle with this for life.
If your dog isn’t learning potty training in 4-6 months, then it’s time to troubleshoot with these steps:
- Use a consistent schedule: This not only trains your dog’s body to wait until a certain time to go, but it also ensures that you won’t forget to get them out there in time.
- Take the dog outside after eating or drinking: Wait 15-30 minutes for food and water to move through them, then take them outside.
- Employ crate training: Crates become safe spaces for dogs if you train them properly. Since dogs don’t want to taint their home, they will resist peeing and pooping in it.
- Use a command: Commands like “Do your business!” tell the dog it’s time to go. When training, don’t just throw this command out there. Instead, wait until they are going, then repeat it several times so they associate the command with the action. Afterward, give treats and praise using the term again – “Good do your business!”
Together, these tips should improve the problem over time. If you haven’t seen improvement in a year, it might be time to ask a specialist for help.
Dealing with separation anxiety
Next up on your list of priorities for training a dog: leaving them behind when you leave. You are your dog’s parent, friend, and security blanket – and unlike you, they don’t have work and a to-do list calling them. They want to spend every second together, so some have a challenging time when you go.
To help make your leaving less stressful, make sure your dog has plenty of comfort items: blankets with your smell on them, soft places to sleep, and toys they won’t choke on. A crate that feels safe and cozy to them is always helpful as well, especially when you’re still potty training.
Make sure you always say goodbye to your pet. Your sudden disappearance is incredibly stressful, so make sure to seek them out before leaving. Tell them they’re a good dog and that you will be back and let them watch you leave.
Addressing excessive barking
Excessive barking is another issue many owners have to deal with when training a dog. It’s a nuisance to neighbors and can give you a real headache. To troubleshoot barking:
- Ignore it with no eye contact
- If that doesn’t work, give a firm “no bark” command with a stern look, but don’t be loud or threatening
- Give an alternate command, like “sit” or “lie down” to break them out of their cycle
- Stop all fun activity, such as playing or petting, until they stop
- Do not let them out of their crate while they’re barking or yipping, but instead wait until they stop and open the door immediately while praising
- Avoid stressful situations, such as walking by bigger dogs or being outside when there’s construction
By consistently applying these tips, the behavior should diminish over time, especially as the dog gets older.
Tips to stop leash Pulling
Leash pulling is a bit of a polarizing issue in the world of training a dog. There are two basic approaches to preventing pulling: using a high level of consistent training or using a training tool like the Gentle Leader.
Gentle Leader 101
The Gentle Leader is a device that loops around the dog’s nose and neck such that when the dog pulls, the nose loop tightens and pulls their head sideways. As soon as they slow, the loop slackens, and they can face forward again. This is negative reinforcement, the dog learning “Hey, when I pull, this not-nice thing happens!”
Some people use this as a training tool while the dog is young and learning to walk. Others use it for life because it is so effective. It is much safer for a dog than a choke collar, which can get stuck around the windpipe and restrict air.
A few caveats, however. First, it is extremely important you put the Gentle Leader on correctly. Getting it wrong can pull your animal in unsafe ways and make for an extremely unpleasant walking experience for them (though it is not nearly as dangerous as a chain). Second, you should never leave it on before or after a walk.
Consistent Training FTW
Other owners and trainers find the Gentle Leader unkind, because it goes on like a muzzle. They also believe it’s a crutch in place of consistently training a dog.
If you have the time and willingness to spend lots of time stopping and correcting behavior on walks, then by all means, do that. However, don’t use yanking and yelling in place of a useful tool like the Gentle Leader, as that is worse overall for your dog.
In any case, you should use commands when correcting behavior, whatever tools you’re using. Over time, your dog will respond more to those than any other form of positive or negative reinforcement.
Building a strong bond with your dog
Training a dog starts with a strong bond. When they trust you and want to please, they’ll more readily accept your authority and obey your commands. Over time, this will reduce your need for troubleshooting, build a happier bond between you, and result in a model dog!