There are several things we as puppy parents unintentionally do that mess with our dogs’ emotions.

No matter how hard we try in our effort to be perfect, some of our human ways can lead to one confused pup. And sending mixed signals to our pups will make them more likely to misbehave. But is it really bad behavior, or bad communication?

1. Bribery.

Does your dog only listen if you have a treat in your hand? Do you keep your hand in the treat pouch during a training session or move towards the cookie jar before you issue your dog a command? If you answered “yes,” you are one of many hoomans guilty of bribing your dog. Many people begin training a behavior by luring their dog into position. Using a lure is okay in the initial stages of training a command, however, there is a fine line between a lure and a bribe, so it’s important to phase out the lure as soon as possible.

Think of positive reinforcement like a slot machine. If you play the slots and win the jackpot on your first, second, and third try, you just learned that the slots can be very rewarding. Odds are, you’re gonna keep playing even if you don’t win much on the fourth or fifth try.

You keep playing because you won in the past, and you want to win again in the future. The casino doesn’t have to guarantee a win for you to keep playing the game. Rate of reinforcement with dogs is similar. Teaching your dog to work without a bribe is important because a treat might not always be available.

2. “Come Here Now!”

How many of you have called to your dog and a wild west standoff ensues? Well, what exactly are you calling them for? We often expect our pups to come even when they know there’s no incentive to do so. Instead, ensure that “come” works every time by rewarding your dog with a puppy party every time they obey this all-important command.

The key-word here is reward. Puppy parties should involve anything your dog finds rewarding–a nice belly rub, a yummy treat, their favorite toy, etc. The key-word here is reward. Unless your dog absolutely, 100 % lives to take a bath, a puppy party should not involve bath-time. They most certainly won’t want to come when called if they’re punished once they get to you.

Never punish your dog for coming when called. Even if your dog is coming back after an hour long escapade through the neighborhood, they still get a puppy party. Remember to always issue a recall command with a pleasant tone and a smile on your face; no dog wants to come running to an angry tone and a scowling face.

3. “Go To Your Room!”.

So, your dog is less than eager to spend time in their kennel… well, how many times have you used the kennel as a form of punishment? The kennel should be a comfortable place that your dog is eager to visit. The kennel is that magical place where your pup eats their dinner or gets a peanut butter-stuffed Kong. Never use the kennel as a form of punishment!

Sources: ASPCA, Humane Society Of The United States