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16 mistakes that may cause dogs to be distracted during training

The human-canine bond has existed for thousands of years, but that does not mean that training a dog is an easy task. Often, owners become frustrated with their dogs when they perceive the dog as not being focused or paying attention to them. Any errors that occur, however, honest as they may be, are on the human side of the equation. If your dog is distracted during training, then you are doing something wrong.
Dogs are resilient, loyal souls, and occasional minor mistakes on the owner's part during training are not insurmountable. But significant errors can lead to years of miscommunication and frustration between you and your dog. Here are 16 mistakes you are making during training that distract your dog and how you can fix them.
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1. You are inconsistent in training
If you respond differently to both good and bad behaviors every time they happen, you are distracting and confusing your dog. You need to be aware of your reactions and make sure you respond with consistency in each situation. Fix this problem by creating "house rules" that everyone in the family follows consistently to work as a team to train your dog.
2. You become impatient with your dog's progression
Being impatient and short-tempered because your dog is not mastering a command or behavior as fast as you think he should is a recipe for canine distraction. Be realistic and understand that getting angry or frustrated with your dog will result in a decline in the effectiveness of the training. Work on being patient and remember that your dog needs time to learn what you are asking of him.
3. You use incorrect timing for rewards and praise
Your dog can become perplexed and unfocused if you wait too long to praise and reward him for a job well done. Timing is everything; work consistently on improving yours so your dog understands why he is being rewarded.
4. You reward negative behavior
Often this mistake happens without the owner realizing it. If your dog barks and you give him attention, you are telling him that he has done the right thing; he will then think that barking equates with gaining your attention. Change this scenario by ignoring your dog's barks until it stops and then rewarding and praising him.
5. You repeat commands
If you tell your dog to stay four times in a row, you will thoroughly confuse him. He will learn that he should not respond to your first request the first time, and this type of stalling can be a difficult habit to break. Practice verbalizing a request one time only, and if your dog does not respond the first time, use a treat to encourage him to try again.
6. You use your dog's name in a negative contex
Using your dog's name while punishing him, or yelling, screaming and shouting his name will teach him to look the other way when you call. Instead, always associate your dog's name with a positive command, such as, "Lucy, come here." Only use a short term such as "No" to indicate displeasure with your dog's behavior.
7. You run training sessions too short or too long
Just as people become bored and distracted during very short or overly long meetings, your dog can suffer the same way if your training sessions are not timed just right. Not training enough means your dog does not have practice in focusing on you, and training for lengthy periods of time allows your dog's mind to wander. Dog's naturally have a short attention span, so keep sessions short and positive, around 10 to 15 minutes.
8. You allow yourself to become overly emotional
Dogs are exceptional at sensing human feelings and emotions, and they can become distressed and distracted if you try to train them while you are angry, upset or sad. Maintain a calm demeanor at all times when training your dog, and save the excitement for praising him when he obeys you.
9. You lack confidence
Although you do not want to take an "alpha" approach to train your dog, you do want to give him a sense of security and trust in you through your confidence. Without that confidence, your dog will likely become distracted or bored with your requests. Be consistent in showing your dog what you want from him, and he will reward you with his full attention.
10. You are reactive instead of proactive
Reacting only to negative behaviors instead of proactively ensuring they do not happen can also throw your dog off from training. If your dog chews your favorite pair of shoes, you should be proactive and remove them from his reach rather than angrily reacting to his natural instinct. Practice sensing when a bad behavior is about to happen and correct the situation; turn a potential negative into a definite positive.
11. You don't train to the type of dog you own
If you assume that all training approaches apply to all dogs, then do not be surprised if your husky proves extremely difficult to keep on task when a small animal is in the yard. Not all dogs are created equal; know your dog's breed, and if you are unfamiliar with it, take the time to learn. That way you can practice the training techniques appropriate to your dog's inherent nature.
12. You enact harsh discipline on your dog
Your dog is guaranteed to avoid you if you use forceful, bullying, physically abusive or dominance discipline methods on him. These methods only inhibit your dog from learning and increase the chance of aggressive and fear-related behaviors. Use positive reinforcement training techniques only and be positive, patient and consistent; you will have far better results using these hands-off, reward-based methods.
13. You bribe instead of train
Dogs can become distracted when they think they will receive treats all the time for their good behavior. Correct this issue by keeping your dog guessing so he reacts to you rather than the food-based bribe. Alternate times when you reward with food with times you reward with praise. Eventually, wean your dog off treats during training entirely.
14. You train in the same place
If you keep your dog in the same place every time you train, he will become bored and look for alternative sources of interest. Concurrently, he will become overwhelmed with distractions when you suddenly take the training routines to another location. Practice working with your dog in multiple locations until he has mastered focusing on you in each one.
15. You get clicker-happy
Clicker training can be a helpful initial solution in the training process, but it is not meant to be a permanent one. Your dog should associate the clicker's sound with a food reward, and if you do not remain consistent, he will lose interest in the clicker and the training. Stay consistent and click once per desired behavior.
16. You use low-value treats in high-distraction environments
If you ask your dog to listen to you in a location rife with distractions, you had better make sure the food reward is of high value. Small, store-bought treats or pieces of kibble are fine for training in the house, but outside is a world full of other animals, people, and smells. Up the quality of the treats – a small piece of hot dog or cheese – to keep your dog's focus on you.
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Dogs can be quick learners, but they will only advance as far as their owners do in training. Learn from your mistakes and practice on a consistent basis, so neither you nor your dog forgets the end goal: a happy, trained dog who respects and listens to you.
Resources Kaelin Munkelwitz
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