22 mistakes you don’t realize are causing your dog to act sh*tty that are actually easy to fix

There is so much to love about humanity’s best friend, it’s hard to choose where to start when gushing about dogs. The cuteness factor is definitely up there, especially when it comes to wee puppies. Who hasn’t looked into the eyes of a small, perfect, little pup and not immediately fallen in love? Or what about the never-ending love and attention they seem to give? There’s no better feeling than walking into your home after a long day and being greeted with unconditional love from your favorite furry friend. That doesn’t even begin to account for the unique personalities that make them so special.

One thing people often overlook is the fact that a dog isn’t just a toy or an accessory, but is in fact a new family member that needs training to learn how to be a cohesive part of the pack. As the owner, it’s up to you to help teach, train, and guide your pooch along the way. You don’t have to worry about going it alone, though. There are plenty of training tools and toys that can help you turn your pup into the perfect dog (well, your perfect dog).

Check out our list of training tips and tools highly recommended by industry professionals. Whether you’re a first-time dog owner or are a seasoned vet, there’s something for everyone and every dog on this list.

We only recommend products we love and that we think you will, too. We may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was written by our Commerce team.

Table of Contents

Tip: Misbehavior may be a sign of doggy boredom

According to John Woods, trainer, author, and founder of All Things Dogs, “Restlessness, whining, excessive barking, aggressive or destructive behavior, and general disobedience” can all be manifestations of boredom. He informs that unwanted behaviors of this nature are often a product of owners not engaging in enough playtime with their dog, although “these signs can sometimes also be an indicator of a more serious underlying issue, such as separation anxiety (so owners should be sure to rule that out by consulting with a veterinarian or animal behaviorist).”

1. Mistake: Not playing with your dog enough

Solution: A soft & durable toy designed for indoor play

“Dogs need plenty of playtime to stay physically and mentally fit. Most dog owners are aware of the importance of taking their dog outside to play, but playtime shouldn’t just be limited to outdoor activities,” Woods says. Using a soft, lightweight toy for indoor activity time, like this ChuckIt! dog ball, is a great way to have fun inside with your furry friend. And thanks to how small and soft it is, you won’t have to worry about breaking anything or making a mess everywhere.

Wood adds, “By playing indoors with this, dog owners can maximize active playtime with their dog each day which, besides the health benefits of more playtime, also helps with socializing and bonding (which are significant factors for maintaining general well-being in dogs).”

2. Mistake: Not preventing excessive barking & howling before it starts

Solution: This long-lasting treat toy that occupies body & mind

Help distract your dog’s brain from barking or howling by using a durable, long-lasting toy that can be filled with treats like this KONG rubber cone. Woods explains, “Chew toys can help in these situations as an immediate distraction in the moment, or if used more routinely they can be an effective general preventative measure by providing physical and mental stimulation (which are both essential for general well-being in dogs).”

The various sizes available and the array of snacks and treats that can fit inside make it a must-have chew toy for many pet parents.

3. Mistake: Offering a long-haul treat that’s undersized or not durable enough

Solution: A large-capacity toy that can withstand heavy chewers & big appetites

Dog owners of bigger breeds swear by the additional strength and durability you get with the KONG Extreme. Woods explains that it’s “a more robust version of the Classic, so it’s especially suitable for larger dogs or dog breeds that have a stronger bite force (such as Mastiffs, Bulldogs, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, and Boxers).”

All pet parents should be aware of the following word of caution when it comes to stuffing peanut butter in your KONG: “Dog owners should avoid using any peanut butter that contains xylitol, which is used as a sweetener in some processed peanut butter, as xylitol is toxic to dogs and can be fatal if ingested,” advises Woods.

4. Mistake: Not directing chewing instincts to something appropriate (instead of shoes or furniture)

Solution: This durable bone for aggressive chewers

Meg Marrs, founder and trainer of K9 and Mine, states, “A lot of owners get frustrated at their dog for chewing up their stuff – and it’s no wonder why! Pups are infamous for destroying anything and everything that’s lying around.” She advises keeping these items out of sight and range of puppy mouths and paws as a first step.

Secondly, she shares, “Chewing is a very normal, natural behavior for dogs. This isn’t a behavior we need to suppress completely – we just need to be directing it towards appropriate outlets! Encourage and redirect your pup to these dog-appropriate chews and you’ll find him much less likely to chomp on your furniture.”

Tip: Having chew toys available helps decrease destructive behavior

Marrs asserts, “[Contrary] to some misguided beliefs, offering chews doesn’t increase destructive behavior – it decreases it, as you’re giving the pup an appropriate way to perform a natural behavior. Plus, chewing is a calming, soothing activity for dogs, so it’s something you want to encourage rather than discourage. Punishing your dog for chewing altogether will just result in a more frustrated pooch!”

5. Mistake: Not offering a dedicated place for dig-happy pups to exercise their instincts

Solution: A sandbox with cover for contained digging where you want it

Is your furry friend a digging fiend? No need to worry about that. As M
arrs explains, “Digging is another very natural, normal dog behavior that can be rewarding for the dog to perform – we just need to teach them when and where to dig.” Feel good about your decision to let your dog dig by purchasing this turtle sandbox that can give them a dedicated space to freely engage in that behavior.

She adds, “[You’ll] be satisfying your dog’s natural urges and providing a great enrichment activity that burns mental and physical energy!”

6. Mistake: Allowing your dog to get wound up & bark excessively at other dogs on walks

Solution: A light-up collar that helps you walk safely during off-hours

“If your dog doesn’t like company on their walks, try going out early in the morning before work or later in the evening once it’s gotten dark,” says Mikkel Becker, a dog behavior counselor and lead trainer for Fear Free. Use this LED light up collar to walk your pup in those pre-dawn or dusk hours while avoiding the crowds. You get up to eight hours of use before the collar will need recharging, a bonus feature that means you’ll no longer keep wasting money on buying replacements when they burn out.

7. Mistake: Letting the trash can be the most appealing snack around

Solution: This interactive treat mat to occupy doggy’s time and attention

Getting into the trash doesn’t have to be a habit you tolerate with your dog. As Becker explains, “This issue can happen when your dog is bored or wanting to act on its natural doggy instincts to forage.” Find positive ways to embrace those natural instincts in your pup with something like this snuffle mat to bring enrichment into their daily routine. Simply hide treats throughout the mat and then let your dog forage away.

“Remember, dogs love to work for their food and like to be ‘employed’ with something to do all day,” Becker shares.

8. Mistake: Keeping pee pads on the floor for leg-lifters

Solution: This pee pad holder that extends upward to catch everything

If your dog likes to lift their leg when it’s time to relieve themselves, think about investing in a pee pad holder. “Sometimes peeing vertically can mean they miss the pee pad, especially if they are lifting their legs up high, so having a pad that extends upwards can solve this,” says Becker. These holders are compatible with both reusable and disposable potty pads. You can always ensure your dogs’ business ends up where it’s supposed to now.

9. Mistake: Leaving open entry to the cat’s litter box

Solution: An adjustable door latch that lets cats in but keeps pups out

If your dog is constantly and persistently finding ways to gain access to the delights of your cat’s litter box, think about using an adjustable door strap to keep them out of that area. It works great for small and large dogs alike. Becker explains, “Having a latch on the door allows your cat to get through to their litter box or hiding place while preventing your dog from following.”

Tip: Supervision plays an important role in helping dogs progress with training

“One common pitfall in otherwise effective dog training programs is what transpires when our dogs are left unsupervised,” reveals Kimberlee Tolentino, owner and head trainer at Lugaru K9 Training. “When you’re not around to interrupt, reinforce, or follow through on a behavior standard, dogs will eventually default to whatever is most self-rewarding; things like nuisance barking, chewing off-limits objects, stealing food, and other unwanted behaviors.”

10. Mistake: Leaving rambunctious dogs unsupervised in the house

Solution: A sturdy & secure kennel for when owners are away

There is a vast array of reasons why you dog may be misbehaving when you’re not home. One surefire way to prevent unwanted behaviors from happening in the first place is to start kenneling your dog in something safe and secure like this double door crate. “I always recommend safely confining your dog when you can’t immediately supervise them and respond to behaviors accordingly,” says Tolentino.

11. Mistake: Letting doggo have free range when traveling

Solution: A portable playpen to provide a safe place for pups on-the-go

Traveling doesn’t have to interfere with or impede upon your dog’s progress in their training. One of the biggest issues is not having a safe and secure area for your dog to feel comfortable in during your travels. While taking their home kennel probably isn’t a viable option, using a portable pet playpen is a great solution and follows the advice Tolentino gives about leaving pets in a secure and confined space — especially when left alone.

12. Mistake: Not keeping an eye on pets when away

Solution: The pet camera with two-way communication that also dispenses treats

If you do want to let your dog roam free while you’re out of the house, there are ways to keep track of
what they’re doing while you’re gone. Tolentino says, “In my programs I also incorporate the use of helpful cameras that keep me on top of my dogs’ behaviors even when they think I can’t see them.” Check out this treat dispensing camera that not only lets you monitor pooch activities, but also lets you reinforce positive behaviors with a tasty morsel when you’re not around.

13. Mistake: Granting too much freedom prematurely

Solution: A long lead line & yard stake for a contained range of motion

There are tried-and-true ways to slowly introduce your dog to increased outdoor freedom that will improve their overall training from the get-go. As Tolentino explains, “Some dogs are simply not at a point in their training where they are reliable, and granting an unreliable dog too much freedom too soon can be frustrating or even dangerous in some situations.” Let your dog explore the outdoors on your terms with this stake and cable tie. This way, they get up to 15 feet of freedom, but in a controlled setting.

14. Mistake: Letting your dog lunge, pull, or zig-zag on walks

Solution: This comfortable front harness that limits the ability to pull

Taking your dog on daily walks should be a top priority. If things aren’t going as smoothly as possible, find the best walking equipment suited to your pooch and their behaviors. According to expert in canine cognitive behavior therapy and CEO of Upward Dogology, Billie Groom, “It is important to find [something] the dog likes and is comfortable with and addresses the problem.”

A favorite of Groom’s, a tool like this no-pull harness is a great way to train out unwanted walking behaviors. She shares, “some walking tools are better suited to address sudden lunging (squirrel!), pulling (sled dog style), or zig-zagging.”

15. Mistake: Letting dogs unsafely back up due to nervousness or fear

Solution: A collar that tightens to prevent backing out of it

Not all undesirable behaviors are because your dog is bad, which is certainly something to be aware of during the training period. Groom explains that “[if] the dog is nervous or fearful, and tends to back-up, hide, or ‘pancake’, I would suggest a martingale collar,” such as this safety training collar, to help them gain confidence in all settings. Martingales are ideal for giving you more control over the dog compared to a harness or regular flat collar.

16. Mistake: Not encouraging your pup to use their brainpower

Solution: A set of recordable buttons to encourage learning words & stronger communication

Some dogs not only enjoy, but need to be challenged mentally in order to release energy and prevent engaging in destructive behaviors. As Groom notes, “Canine enrichment activities are not difficult, and are fun for both the dog and the human!” A communication tool like these training buttons are a unique solution to increase that daily mental stimulation.

Groom suggests “incorporating words in with playtime that encourage decision-making.” With this button system, if yellow is “ball” and pink is “treat,” pup may need to take a ponder before choosing what strikes their fancy. Groom shares, “This play-style increases the bond between the dog and the human, and forms a communication.”

Tip: Switching training approaches may be necessary as dogs change & age

Says Groom, “There is no one right method for working with a dog. It is common for positive reinforcements to be effective during puppyhood, and suddenly have no effect, or even be counter productive, after six months of age.”

As opposed to letting frustration lead to a harsh training approach or even giving up the pup, Groom endorses shifting “from conditioning methods, commonly positive reinforcement training, balanced training, or counter conditioning, to Canine Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is scientifically proven to address behaviors common in the adolescent stage.”

17. Mistake: Letting your pup jump up on people

Solution: Reinforce “paws on the floor” positive behavior with praise & a tasty treat

Nancy M. Kelly, CPDT-KA and founder of The Mannerly Dog, advises to “[prevent] the behaviors you don’t want and reinforce the opposite behaviors.” For a dog that loves to leap on legs, Kelly clarifies, “[It’s] your dog standing on his rear legs only, front legs flailing and pawing. The ‘opposite’ behavior to focus on in this case is ‘Front paws on the floor.’”

You can use a tempting, tasty treat like these freeze dried beef livers to reinforce the positive behaviors you are training your dog to learn, or reward them for unlearning bad ones. As an added bonus, these freeze dried liver are made of nutritious, human-grade ingredients, so you can feel confident letting your pup munch away on them.

18. Mistake: Being overly excited when you get home, which can encourage jumping

Solution: A comfy place for doggy to plant when you walk in the door

A common habit dog owners wish to break is furry friends jumping on people, including themselves, when they first come into the house. “Making a big deal or being overly excited when you get home can encourage jumping. Instead, teach your dog to sit on something like a platform or dog bed for greetings,” expla
ins Nicole Ellis, CPDT and Pet Lifestyle Expert with Rover.

Having a dedicated area like this elevated bed for your pup to sit and wait (and yes, frantically wag their tail), helps them understand how and when they will receive your attention after entering the house. It’s portable and lightweight, so you can easily find the perfect spot for it in your home.

Tip: Understand why your dog demand barks (aka begs) & how to control it

Shonyae Johnson, animal behavior manager at Operation Kindess, informs Bustle, “The easiest way to get rid of demand barking is to not acknowledge it. This may mean that you have to put up with a little, sometimes a lot, of barking before the behavior goes away.”

Johnson continues, “Don’t look at or talk to your dog when they are barking, you can even get up and leave the room when your dog starts to bark at you. If your dog thinks that barking gets him the things that he wants it is time to teach him the exact opposite – barking gets you nothing, or barking makes me leave.” While that may sound easier said than done, your patience may reap (silent) rewards.

19. Mistake: Assuming any leash will work for your dog

Solution: Experimenting with different leash styles to suit your pup’s instincts & personality

A lot of dog owners underestimate the power of the perfect leash. If you’re struggling with getting your dog to obey you on walks and outdoors in general, you may want to consider switching to a heavy-duty training leash. The double handles give you options for the amount of freedom you want to let your dog have while on your walk. “I recommend trying a new harness or leash and giving the animal a few days to adjust before going for a longer walk,” Johnson instructs. If you need one with a shorter handle, this short traffic-specific leash is a great alternative option.

Tip: Help assuage your dog’s separation anxiety with reminders of you

Dog trainer and co-owner of Stayyy, Aaron Rice, advises, “If your dog has separation anxiety, place something that smells like you (T-shirt, blanket)” in your dog’s kennel or bed. He says, “It will comfort them when you are away more than you know. As we all know, smelling is the main way dogs explore their surroundings.”

20. Mistake: Not mitigating separation anxiety before it starts

Solution: This interactive puzzle toy that occupies pup & helps bust boredom

Many pups of all breeds and ages can suffer from separation anxiety when left alone, which can lead to destructive behaviors. However, there are ways to deal with this that will help distract your dog’s attention while you slip out of the house. An interactive treat toy is a great option for occupying your dog when it’s time for you to leave.

Rice asserts that “[giving] them a favorite toy would be a good idea. It is both comforting and will also provide some entertainment. Puzzle toys are especially effective if your dog feels bored inside of a crate.”

21. Mistake: Not giving a proper training to aggressive dogs

Solution: A humane muzzle that can curb aggressive actions

If you have a reactive or aggressive dog, you can definitely train them to get more comfortable and relaxed in public settings. Using a training muzzle is a simple way to help your dog understand and learn that barking and biting aren’t appropriate behaviors when nervous or scared. Rice notes that muzzles are a “proven method of making sure aggressive dogs don’t sink their canines into your friends or neighbors.” It’s snug enough around the snout they can’t fully open their mouth, but it’s loose enough they can still easily breathe without any hindrance.

However, it’s important to remember the muzzle is a training tool to help — but the actual training comes from you, the owner. Says Rice, “Muzzles might not treat your dog’s aggression on their own; however, with it, you can train your dog not to bite or bark at people.”

22. Mistake: Choosing a muzzle that doesn’t work for your dog’s size or needs

Solution: This adjustable muzzle that comes in various sizes

Finding a muzzle that fits your dog perfectly is easier said than done. Not all dog snouts are shaped the same, and that doesn’t even account for width and length. Instead of settling for a standard one-size-fits-most kind, try out this adjustable nylon muzzle. Rice notes, “[There are also options for] small/medium and X-Large Dogs.”

Again, remember to keep training your dog, because the muzzle is simply a training tool that can help the overall training process.

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