20 Mistakes You Don't Realize Are Causing Your Dog To Behave Badly

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Getting a dog is a big decision. Even if you’ve spent your entire life around them and did all the research before adopting, dogs have a way of teaching us new things about themselves long after they arrive home. It goes way beyond taking Fido on walks and feeding him twice a day: Looking after a dog is a 24/7/365 job.

As pup parents, we like to think we know our dogs best — but without an outside perspective, you might unknowingly be making mistakes that affect their behavior and ultimately make your life harder.

Dog trainers and behavioral experts lent their advice here so you can learn exactly what you’re doing wrong with your dog and, more importantly, how to fix it. For example, dogs need plenty of mental enrichment in addition to physical exercise, and this snuffle mat you can stuff with treats will keep them occupied and out of trouble throughout the day. Alternatively, to bolster the bond between you and your dog, you can play together with these peanut butter scented dog bubbles — they'll love chasing after them on your command. There are lots of less-than-pleasant behaviors that I'm sure you'd love for your dog to avoid. Read on to see the top 20 mistakes you might be making without realizing, and how to avoid them in the future.


Mistake: Not Redirecting Bad Behaviors

Solution: Offering Your Dog A Toy Alternative

When your dog is doing something they shouldn’t, it’s not enough just to scold them or take away what they’re messing with. Melonie San Pietro, a certified dog trainer and owner of Wanderpups, recommends offering your dog an alternative to redirect their behavior. “An example would be if a dog is chewing something they aren’t supposed to be chewing,” she explains. “Often people tell the dog no and take the thing away. But they should take the thing away and then give them something they CAN chew on.” This 10-pack set of durable dog toys is nearly indestructible and include a variety of fun options that range from plush animals and carrots to durable ropes.


Mistake: Acknowledging Only Bad Behaviors

Solution: Recognizing Good Behaviors With A Yummy Reward

Training your dog isn’t just a matter of punishing bad behavior, it’s also about rewarding good behavior with yummy dog treats that you can conveniently keep in this wearable dog treat pouch. “If your dog is doing something good, then give them a treat and reinforce the behavior,” San Pietro explains. “If they are sitting quietly in their bed while you cook dinner and you like this behavior, then simply give them a treat and tell them good job.” Your dog will start to have positive associations with the behavior or location, and they’ll be more inclined to continue.


Mistake: Not Giving Your Pup Mental Stimulation

Solution: Engaging Their Brains With A Puzzle Toy

San Pietro emphasizes the importance of keeping your dog mentally stimulated throughout the day. “Good games, breed specific enrichment, etc. are all important to keep dogs engaged and happy,” she says. This treat puzzle has built-in spots to hide treats or kibble, and your dog will have to figure out how to flip and slide the lids to find them. It’s a great way to keep them focused on a task while you’re busy, and to work their brain in positive ways.


Mistake: Not Letting Your Dog Sniff On Walks

Solution: Putting Them On A Long Leash To Explore Freely

The next time you take Biscuits on a long walk or to the park, put them on an extra long leash and allow them to sniff as much as they please. “Dogs experience the world through their sense of smell,” San Pietro says. “Dogs who get to sniff uninterrupted have lower stress levels!” This strong nylon leash has the length your dog needs to explore their environment, while still allowing you to keep them in within eyesight.


Mistake: Letting Your Young Puppy Jump On You

Solution: Training Them Not To Jump For Pets With Treats

Elisha Stynchula, CPDT-KA, CNWI, CTDI, and the owner and president of “I Said Sit!” School for Dogs, puts it best: "Little 10 week old puppies are so cute and fun to pet but when we let them jump on us, that becomes a habit much harder to break when they are bigger and it isn’t so cute anymore.” She recommends only petting your puppy when they have all four feet on the floor, and keeping treats in this PetSafe treat pouch so you can reward standing for pets, a good behavior, quickly. The water-resistant PVC-lined pouch comes with divided pockets that stay open to keep treats at your fingertips, and you can clip it around your waist to take it anywhere.


Mistake: Leash Training Your Dog On A Retractable Leash

Solution: Investing In A High-Quality Leather Leash

Walking your dog on a retractable leash may be convenient to you (especially if you’ve got a slowpoke or speed racer on your hands), but Synchula emphasizes how these leashes can send mixed messages to dogs. “How is your dog supposed to have any idea where you want them to be when your leash can be 3 feet, 6 feet, up to 15 feet long? Dogs need consistency to learn,” she says. Instead, once your dogs have outgrown the puppy chewing stage, she recommends this Soft Touch Collars 6-foot leather leash, which keeps your dog at an appropriate distance and is designed to last even when they pull.


Mistake: Allowing Your Dog To Get Bored

Solution: Occupying Them With A Snuffle Mat

Make no mistake: A bored dog can quickly turn into a destructive dog. According to Stynchula, providing your dog with enrichment activities, such as this Toto’s Pet World snuffle mat, will challenge them in an appropriate way. “[Snuffle mats] are a great way to give your dog an activity to stay busy, and the foraging behavior relaxes many dogs while also tiring them out in a healthy, stimulating way,” she explains.


Mistake: Walking Your Dog With An Ill-Fitting Leash

Solution: Using A Harness That Fits Well To Make Them Comfortable

If your dog has trouble walking nicely on a leash, the problem might be the equipment itself. “Using a well fitted harness tends to yield the best results to help your dog walk nicely on leash,” Stynchula says. “My favorite is the Freedom Harness. It has many adjustment points and allows the dog's legs to move in a natural manner which is important to look for when selecting a harness." It comes in seven different sizes for super small to extra large dogs, and is lined with Swiss Velvet to prevent uncomfortable rubbing on your pup’s chest.


Mistake: Overdoing It On Training

Solution: Giving Your Dog A Break With A Special Toy

Colleen Demling-Riley, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA, CDBC, and AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator, is a dog behaviorist for Dogtopia. If you’ve been working hard to train your dog, and suddenly you’ve hit a plateau, she recommends something simple: giving your dog a break. “Ever feel refreshed and rejuvenated after an unexpected day off work or a three-day weekend? Dogs are the same,” she states. She recommends letting FiFi relax with a classic KONG toy stuffed with peanut butter, yogurt, or canned pumpkin as a self-soothing treat. After a day spent hanging out, you can pick up where you left off.


Mistake: Not Doing Bonding Activities With Your Dog

Solution: Playing Together With Some Dog-Friendly Bubbles

Demling-Riley notes how important it is for dogs to form a bond with their human: That’s how they learn to respond to you and listen to your directions. Make bonding time fun with these peanut butter scented bubbles you can play with together. “Tell your dog to sit and stay,” Demling-Riley instructs. “Start to blow the bubbles. Release them from their stay with a happy ‘OK!’ and watch them have lots of fun."


Mistake: Not Making Bonding Time Fun

Solution: Playing Together With A Hula Hoop

Another bonding tool you can use to have fun with your pooch is a simple hula hoop. Your dog doesn’t have to be circus trained in order to have fun, Demling-Riley instructed dog downers to place the hoop on the ground, put their dog in a down stay position inside of the hoop, and to give them lots of praise when they comply. Once they’ve mastered that, “pick up the hoop and let them have some fun jumping through it," she says.


Mistake: Acknowledging Negative Behaviors Only

Solution: Rewarding Your Dog For Being Good & Using Clickers

Demling-Riley notes that many pet parents only notice when their dog is acting out. “They scold the pup for putting their paws on the counter or discipline them for getting in the trash. But they ignore them when they are calmly chewing on a dog toy or laying on their bed during dinner,” she explains. Over time, your furry friend will start to act out just to get your attention. These dog training clickers make it easy to acknowledge and reward good behavior, like laying quietly when someone is at the door or calmly chewing a bone while you’re in a meeting. Click the clicker, give your dog a little treat, and tell them they’re good to reinforce good behaviors. These highly-rated clickers come in a pack of two, so you can keep them in different areas of your home to easily find and use them in the moment.


Mistake: Using A Choke Chain, Prong Collar, Or Electric Collar

Solution: Swapping Those For A No-Pull Head Collar

For many reasons, some dogs are prone to pulling, lunging, or other unwanted behaviors on a leash. Jesse Sternberg, a dog trainer and the author of Enlightened Dog Training, noted that this PetSafe no-pull head collar is a more comfortable alternative to prong collars and choke chains for strong dogs. “[It] will give you more power and control, without hurting your pet or inflaming their aggression,” he says. The collar sits in a pain-free zone of their face, eliminating pressure on your pup’s throat and applying gentle pressure to improve their leash behavior.


Mistake: Refusing To Give Your Dog Treats

Solution: Using These Liver Treats To Get Their Attention

Even the best dog needs a little encouragement to get their attention once in a while. “Not using treats because you think their dog should ‘listen’ is the ego talking and makes for a one-sided relationship,” Sternberg explains. “These affordable, high-value liver treats will magnetize your dog’s attention to you." They contain only USDA-certified, human-grade beef liver, and are naturally grain-,gluten-, and preservative-free with no artificial colors or flavors, so you’ll love giving them to Lucy as much as she loves getting them.


Mistake: Missing Out On Training Opportunities

Solution: Feeding Your Dog With A Puzzle Treat Dispenser

Sternberg encourages dog owners to use every possible moment as a training opportunity, including dinner time. “This IQ enhancing food dispenser will enrich your dog’s quality of life,” he states. Designed as a flow feeder, this interactive puzzle toy has 14 holes to hide kibble inside. It will challenge your pup to use their nose or paws to move the sliders. In addition to engaging the mind, this puzzle can also slow down fast eaters at meal time.


Mistake: Not Allowing Your Dog To Be A Dog

Solution: Keeping Them Out Of Trouble With Toys

Mikkel Becker, a certified trainer, dog behavior counselor, and lead animal trainer for Fear Free, reminds dog owners of what their pups require. “Dogs are scavengers and they like to explore and use their minds and bodies to work out different puzzles and challenges,” she says. “Giving them productive outlets can allow them to act on their natural behaviors.” One example of a productive outlet is this KONG wobbler treat feeder, which you fill with treats and let your dog go wild with. The wobbling motion will tease their mind, and they’ll have to use their instincts to figure out how to get the treats out.


Mistake: Stopping Your Dog From Digging

Solution: Giving Them A Doggy Pool Filled With Sand

“Dogs love to dig! This is a normal dog behavior. It’s part of who they are as a species. Again, give them a viable outlet for this behavior. They need to be productive and have their minds occupied, just like humans. I recommend a sandbox in the backyard or a kiddie pool filled with sand,” Becker says. This pool measures 63 inches wide, so it’s big enough for large dogs to completely fit inside. It’s constructed sturdily with double-layer PVC to prevent punctures and leaks — ideal for when your dog’s nails scrape the bottom of the pool.


Mistake: Leaving An Anxious Dog All Alone

Solution: Comforting Them With A Warm Plushie That Has A Heartbeat

Dogs get anxious too, and Becker endorses using the Snuggle Puppy to reduce any negative behaviors that may be fueled by stress or anxiety. Powered by AAA batteries, this plushie has a pulsing heartbeat and an internal heat pack to soothe your fur baby. Use it while they’re being crate trained, or when you leave home to reduce barking, whining, and other anxious — and potentially destructive — behaviors.


Mistake: Not Blocking Off Parts Of Your Home From Your Dog

Solution: Using A Walk-Through Pet Gate For Easy Access

If you’ve got multiple pets but just want to keep the larger ones from accessing certain areas of your home, try this Carlson pet gate. Recommended by Becker, this gate has a small door at the bottom (measuring 8-by-8 inches) so that cats and other small animals can pass through with ease while your larger animals stay on one side. It stands at 34 inches tall and expands up to 36 1/2 inches wide to fit most stairways and openings, with a pressure-mounted design that won’t cause damage to your walls.


Mistake: Leaving Your Dogs Home Alone Without Supervision

Solution: Keeping An Eye On Them With A Treat Dispensing Camera

Becker recommends this treat-tossing dog camera to keep an eye on your pooch while you’re away. It has two-way audio and a barking sensor, which sends a push notification to your phone when it detects barking. You can then check in on your four-legged friend, soothing them with your voice via the smartphone app. You can also toss them a treat when they’re doing well, which will help reinforce their training and good behaviors. With over 21,000 five-star reviews, this pet camera is a bit of an investment, but a worthwhile one.

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