Simplify Your Dog Training: Top 6 Things NOT To Do

Operation SidekickCongratulations you’ve done it. You’ve added a 4 legged friend to your home. You want to take the proactive approach and decide to do all the research you can on dog breeds, food, training etc… You get the notepad out and find out everybody seems to be an expert. Suddenly you start to lose your excitement and become overwhelmed in fear of making a mistake. What do you do? Oh I know you’ll ask your friends then realize there is contradicting information between them as well. It’s time to simplify your dog training.

Anyone that has been a first time dog owner or even typed in weight loss in Google can relate. I had a similar experience after I proposed to my wife. In less than a week we could feel some of the pressure that comes with a big decision and suddenly the excitement turned to nerves. We suddenly had all these questions we were somehow supposed to know the answers to and be experts in wedding and life planning. So we started taking a different approach, instead of asking for advise and what we should do we just asked what they would have changed or done differently. This opened up different responses and instead of recommending we HAD, MUST and NEED to do we started getting more select responses with depth. Suddenly it became things to avoid or things that at the end of the day didn’t matter. Sometimes too many options and variables can paralyze you and can take away from the experience.

One of the most consistent things we hear as dog trainers during a lesson is “Well who you put it like that it is simple.” We love hearing that because it is important to simplify your dog training and we work hard to make training experiences for our customers simple, not easy, but simple. I thought in the spirit of simplicity I would share 6 tips that are simple NOT to do. Im sure you have heard of a TO DO list and probably use one. In my experience a to do list can feel never ending, stressful, and ultimately cause you to have tunnel visions and more concerned with getting things done than enjoying the process. If you can avoid these you’ll be off to a great start.

  1. SHOWTIME! Please do NOT show your new dog off to all your friends and family the first day you get them. I know I know you’re excited and want to show off your new family member but doing this the first day can be stressful for a dog. No matter where you get your dog or the age he/she will be, your dog will be in a mild state of shock. You want to take the first couple of days and build a bond and connection with your dog and family. If you’re taking your dog all around town getting loved on by friends and family your dog can easily get used to all the attention from others and your value stock just plummeted (and you wonder why your dog jumps on everybody later), not to mention you haven’t learned enough about your dog at this stage to know its signals of stress or if it has to go out to potty.
  2. BEDTIME! Please do NOT let your dog sleep in bed with you the first night. I know they can give you the puss in boots eyes but it is important to make a dog earn things especially in the beginning. They are not used to your home, you want them to know their space and establish boundaries. Dogs are den creatures and like enclosed areas. A crate can be a great training tool if done correctly for dogs and especially puppies for a number of reasons (read our KeenDog E-Book for further in-depth information about the benefit of crate training your dog). If you give a dog or even human too much freedom without earning it they tend to abuse it and unlearning behaviors is harder than teaching new behaviors.
  3. FEEDING! Please do NOT free feed your dog. Food is a great training tool and can be valuable in teaching your dog boundaries and new habits. In my experience if you’re rescuing a dog they usually will not eat the first night because of nerves but a puppy usually will depending on the age. Lets just say you have a chow hound right from the get go. Begin to make them sit (even for a second) before releasing them to eat, building upon their staying ability every day and pick the food up after 5 minutes. I recommend feeding two times a day morning and night. It is a great training exercise of self-control and communicates to the dog that you have something of value and again they have to earn it by offering a behavior you like to see such as a sit/stay.
  4. POTTY TIME! Please do NOT use pee pads, it’s just gross. It serves absolutely no value and teaches your dog to use the bathroom indoors. Who wants to see or smell that? It also is hard for your dog to understand the difference between a pee pad and a rug or bath mat, they are both rectangular and are a boundary – thus your dog will have more accidents for longer periods of their life because this was accepted at a young age on a pee pad. If you live in a high-rise apartment and want to train them to use something on your
    balcony we have recommended grass-like potty areas you can buy online: By no means should this be your dog’s sole way to use the bathroom, include trips outside and walks for physical exercise and exploration of the world together.
  5. PLAYTIMEE! Please do NOT bring your dog to a dog park the first 4img_13608 hours, or really ideally ever. Dog parks are a good idea in theory and can be good at times but the risk does not equal the reward. You want to create habits and build a bond with your dog right from the start. Bringing your dog around other dogs in the beginning can not only overwhelm your dog but also gives other dogs more value over you (no wonder why your dog pulls to other dogs throughout your walk). You’re also still getting used to your dog and won’t know if they are more submissive which will lead your dog to easily get bullied at a dog park by other dogs. This is the #1 reason we see fear aggression and leash reactivity, because of one bad experience at a dog park.
  6. WALKTIMEE! Please Do NOT use a retractible leash. Again, a good idea in theory however, it will never teach your dog a proper walk (no wonder your dog pulls you everywhere). Retractible leashes communicate to your dog you follow him/her and can be dangerous because it can easily snap or give you a nice leash burn when your dog spots a squirrel and runs past your leg in a hurry (I know this from a personal experience, the scar is still there 8 years later). The momentum power your dog can achieve being at the end of one of these can easily allow them to jerk the handheld area out of your hand and cause them to continue running away from you out of fear of the oval plastic box chasing after them. Just don’t do it. If you want to allow your dog more room, buy a 20-foot longline instead.


In our daily lives we have an overwhelming amount of things to do. Sometimes we need to simplify your dog training and focus on what not to do instead of everything we should, need or have to do. As always, have fun with your dog, you decided to get a dog to enhance your life, not hinder it.

Phillip Kensington

KeenDog Co-Owner