30 mistakes you're making that might be causing your dog to behave badly

There are no bad dogs — just training tips and products waiting to turn them into great dogs.

ByLisa Fogarty
Originally Published: 
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There are no bad dogs — there are only dogs who are misbehaving and need a little more training under their belt. With that said, it can certainly feel like your pup has run wild and is turning your home and life upside down. And, in those moments, you just need help — fast — to turn the problem around. That's where these dog experts come in: They uncovered 30 of the biggest mistakes you’re making that might be causing your dog to behave badly.

Maybe you yell at your dog when he's barking up a storm or you've become so frustrated with your pooch trying to run off when you're on a walk that you consider abandoning strolls altogether. Before you do anything drastic (or lose your voice), follow these tips, consider these products, and turn your dog into an A-plus listener.


Mistake: Skipping training & socialization

Solution: Learning step-by-step training tips

Your dog isn’t going to instinctively know your expectations; proper training and socialization are the key factors needed to teach them the ways of the world. “Dogs, like humans, need to learn the basics and acquire new friends,” Yogisinsta, a content creator, dog trainer, author, and musician, tells Bustle. “Consistent training and socialization will teach your dog what is expected of them and how to behave with other dogs and people.” This highly rated dog training book can help — it provides step-by-step instructions on how to give basic commands like “sit” and “drop it,” as well as tips on helping them overcome anxieties that can lead to misbehavior, like calming down when they see that pesky vacuum cleaner come out of the closet.


Mistake: Not providing mental stimulation

Solution: Filling their days with plenty of puzzles

A bored dog is usually a destructive dog. “Dogs, like children on sugar highs, require physical activity and mental stimulation,” Yoginista said. “As a result, make sure to provide them with lots of exercise and mental stimulation with entertaining games such as fetch, agility, and puzzles.” This puzzle toy is perfect: it’s a slow feeder that “hides” food and treats under flip lids that your pooch has to figure out how to open. Dogs learn to press the granary button to receive treats and the problem-solving task expands their minds and keeps them out of trouble.


Mistake: Interpreting your pooch’s boredom for bad behavior

Solution: A snuffle mat that turns mealtimes into fun times

“One of dog owners' most significant mistakes is that they stop focusing on how their dog gets quickly bored,” Richard West, founder of PuppyHero, tells Bustle. “They misunderstand a dog's boredom as bad behavior, which makes the dog behave worse. Dogs need enriching activities that will keep them busy and happy. You can choose puzzle toys or a snuffle mat that will make your dog happy. A bored dog will always have mood swings, making it hard for you to train them.” This snuffle mat provides a fun, interactive way for your dog to eat meals and snacks while satisfying their instinct to dig.


Mistake: Not giving your dog enough exercise

Solution: Taking them on plenty of walks

Dogs need exercise to stay healthy and be happy, Aaron Rice, expert dog trainer at Stayyy, tells Bustle: “A lack of exercise will lead to boredom and pent-up energy, which can lead to destructive behavior. Make sure that you’re providing your pup with enough physical and mental stimulation to keep them well-exercised and engaged.” Plenty of daily walks can help them release pent-up energy. This leash is perfect for those strolls — it is made from sturdy material and has a padded handle for comfort. Choose among three sizes and four colors.


Mistake: Not establishing rules, which can lead to dogs destroying your property

Solution: Spray bitter apple liquid on furniture legs

While you are in the middle of training your pup, you can discourage them from negative behaviors like chewing on furniture legs and destroying your property by spraying a bit of this bitter apple liquid on items to discourage them from chewing. Keep in mind though that this deterrent is an aid to training and not a replacement for it. “Establishing basic rules for your pup is essential for setting the foundation for good behavior,” Rice says. “Rules like no jumping on furniture, no begging for food, and no chewing on inappropriate items should be established from the start. If you don’t set rules, your pup may become confused and frustrated, leading to bad behavior.”


Mistake: Not being consistent with training

Solution: A dog agility kit that makes ongoing training fun

Training isn’t something that you do just once and then never again. It takes constant reminders to teach your pup and help prevent naughty behavior. “Dogs need consistency when it comes to training,” Rice says. “If you’re not consistent with your training, your pup may become confused or frustrated and begin to display bad behaviors. Make sure to commit to regular training sessions with your pup for best results.” Training doesn’t have to feel like a chore, either. This fun agility training kit can be set up indoors or outdoors and helps provide physical activity, opportunities for your pup to strengthen their listening skills, and bonding time. Set up this obstacle course for them and teach them how to walk where you want and even jump.


Mistake: Not offering an alternative when you take away something they’re chewing on

Solution: An ultra-durable chew toy that will distract them

It is not sufficient to merely chastise your dog or remove the object they are tampering with when they are acting inappropriately, Thomas Villalpando, dog behaviorist and co-founder of ipetguides, tells Bustle. “Giving your dog a different option will help you change their behavior. An illustration would be a dog eating something it shouldn't be. People frequently refuse the dog's request and take the item away. However, they ought to remove it before giving them something else to gnaw on.” Distract your pet and give them something they can chew on by swapping that sock for this super-durable chew toy. The tear-resistant ring is designed from nontoxic rubber and is ideal for medium and large dogs.


Mistake: Only acknowledging bad behavior

Solution: Rewarding pups when they listen

If you’re only acknowledging your dog’s negative behaviors, you won’t catch them when they’re being good and teach them the actions you do want to see them display. Keeping this dog treat pouch nearby (especially on walks) and rewarding them for listening to a command like “stop” or “sit” is a surefire way to get them to listen again. “In addition to punishing poor conduct, rewarding good behavior with tasty dog treats that you can readily store in this wearable dog treat pouch is an important part of training your dog,” Villalpando says. “Give your dog a treat to encourage positive behavior if it's being demonstrated by them.” This convenient pouch is adjustable and is designed with four pockets. It comes with two washable drawstring bags and is available in two sizes and four colors.


Mistake: Not letting them sniff when they go for walks

Solution: Placing biscuits on a longer leash & encouraging them to sniff

Your dog isn’t stopping to sniff every tree just to annoy you (really). They learn about the world via their sense of smell, and it can even reduce their anxiety and keep them from acting up. “Put biscuits on an extra-long leash the next time you take him for a long walk or to the park and let him smell as much as he wants,” Villalpando suggests. “Dogs use their sense of smell to perceive their environment, and they are less stressed when given uninterrupted sniffing time.” Use this long leash that comes in options that range from 10 to 50 feet and give them plenty of freedom to sniff and explore, while keeping them within reach.


Mistake: Forgetting to spend quality time with your dog

Solution: Incorporating training into one-on-one playtime

One-on-one bonding time isn’t just an important way to foster a better connection with your pup, it can also help them learn training commands and trust you. “They pick up your commands and how to reply to you in this way,” Villalpando says. “Your dog should be told to sit and stay. Release them from your care with a joyful "OK!" and watch them enjoy themselves.” When they listen to a particularly tricky command, give them a special treat like these beefhide dog treats that come in natural or beef and chicken flavors. They’re made from natural rawhide and can even help boost your dog’s dental health.


Mistake: Only providing them with one type of toy or mental stimulation

Solution: Mixing things up with a licking mat

“I think the most common mistake owners make is to assume their dogs need less interaction than they really do,” Dr. Linda Simon, a veterinary surgeon and veterinary consultant for FiveBarks, tells Bustle. “This is especially true when the pet parent owns a working dog or puppy. When I hear complaints of a dog being destructive or hyper, I’ll wonder what their owner is providing them in the sense of mental and physical stimulation. To keep dogs engaged, it takes a lot of effort. We need to provide them with a variety of things to do each day to keep their mind and body ticking over happily. As well as varied hiking routes and other physical games, invest in some gear to keep your dog mentally stimulated.”

If you’re all out of ideas, try this licking mat that helps distract them, alleviate boredom, and even reduce stress. It features suction cups on the back to keep it in place and you can add peanut butter or your pup’s favorite treat to the textured front.


Mistake: Not considering an aggressive chewer’s needs

Solution: This nearly indestructible chew toy you can fill with treats

While you’re diversifying your pup’s toy collection, don’t forget to include products that meet the needs of an aggressive chewer. Ordinary chew toys may prove too delicate for your dog and they can easily destroy them. This strong rubber toy, which you can freeze and fill with treats like peanut butter and cheese, serves as a multi-tasking distraction that they can play with and manipulate during snack or mealtime. It comes in a number of designs, flavors, and sizes to suit all dog breeds.


Mistake: Neglecting the potential of interactive treat balls

Solution: Turning treat time into learning time

Continuing to follow Simon’s tips about stacking up on a variety of different toys that stimulate dogs mentally and physically, this interactive treat ball is a stand-out pick because it requires that your pooch roll it and play with it to get the ultimate reward: a treat. This toy encourages slower eating and it’s adjustable, so you can decide which level of difficulty your dog needs. It comes in two sizes for different breeds and boasts more than 14,000 reviews.


Mistake: Not rewarding older dogs with high-value treats

Solution: Saving these chicken jerky treats for when pups go exhibit amazing behavior

Dogs can tell the difference between a so-so treat (which they’ll happily gobble up, of course) and a really special treat, otherwise known as a high-value treat. Saving those special snacks for when they perform at a higher level during training will really get the point across to them that they’ve done a good thing. “Another cause of ‘bad behavior’ is a lack of consistency in the training routine,” Simon said. “Dogs don’t automatically know what we want from them; we need to spell it out. Owners must all be on the same page and should be consistent in rewarding good behavior.” Reward older dogs with these chicken jerky treat made with natural ingredients (and no grains, corn, or wheat). They’ve earned a 4.6-star rating and more than 2,000 reviews.


Mistake: Forgetting that puppies also learn from high-value treats

Solution: Treating pups with these mini bites made from carrot and chicken

Just because puppies are young doesn’t mean they can’t begin to understand which treats are just a wee bit more special than others. Catch your pup doing something extraordinary (like that first time they don’t go potty in the house) and reward them accordingly to ensure they repeat their behavior with these high-value puppy treats. The mini bites are made with chicken and carrot (they come in three additional flavors like lamb and salmon) and they are a natural source of DHA for brain development. Better still: they’ve earned cult classic status with more than 50,000 reviews.


Mistake: Yelling at your dog when they bark excessively

Solution: Offering positive reinforcement with this dog-training clicker

Got a pooch that loves to bark at everything in sight? Correcting them with your voice may not be the best way to get them to quiet down. “Common mistakes owners make when trying to fix this behavior include yelling at the dog or using physical punishment,” Patrik Holmboe, head veterinarian for Cooper Pet Care, tells Bustle. “These methods can actually make the barking worse, as the dog may interpret the yelling as joining in or the physical punishment as a form of attention.” Instead, use positive reinforcement training to correct behavior. This dog training clicker can teach your dog an “enough” command and reward them when they stop barking. They’re cheap, effective, and come with two in a pack.


Mistake: Playing with your dog when he jumps on you

Solution: Turning your back on a jumping dog & rewarding them with treats when they sit

One common mistake Holmboe says he notices is that owners will sometimes try to fix a dog’s jumping by pushing the dog away or kneeing them in the chest. “These methods can be harmful and can make the dog more excited and jumpy,” he adds. Instead, you can turn your back on your pooch when they jump and try teaching your dog a “sit” command. When they get it right, reward them with these dog-training treats. They come in a variety of flavors and have earned more than 13,000 reviews.


Mistake: Punishing your dog when he digs in the yard

Solution: Giving your dog a designated digging area

If you catch your dog digging in the backyard, Holmboe tells Bustle that owners should avoid punishing the dog or filling in the holes with dirt. “These methods do not address the underlying cause of the behavior and can make the dog more frustrated,” he says. “The correct way to fix this behavior is to provide the dog with a designated digging area and to supervise them when they are outside to ensure they do not dig in other areas.” This snuffle mat offers a garden-esque terrain for dogs to forage in, while also serving as a slow feeder that lets your pup sniff around for treats.


Mistake: Scolding your dog for separation anxiety

Solution: Soothing jittery pups with a calming heartbeat toy

Your dog may be going through separation anxiety — and it may show every time you leave the house and come home to find things destroyed. “Common mistakes owners make when trying to fix this behavior include ignoring the dog or scolding them when they show signs of separation anxiety,” Holmboe tells Bustle. “These methods do not address the underlying cause of the behavior and can make the dog more anxious.” He recommends correcting this behavior using positive reinforcement training, desensitization, counterconditioning, and providing a comfortable place for your pet to stay. Also, try leaving something soothing with your dog like this heartbeat stuffed toy, a best-selling calming aid with over 54,000 five-star ratings.


Mistake: Allowing them to be off-leash when they don't have good recall (yet)

Solution: Teaching them recall while letting them explore with this dog training agility leash

Your dog may be willfully ignoring you when you call him — or the outside world may just be so intriguing that he hasn’t been trained to respond to you. Either way, Lauren Sharkey, an ABTC-registered animal training instructor and founder of Winnie's World, tells Bustle that a longline lead like this training agility leash can be a “super helpful tool when to comes to training recall.” This particular one comes in varying lengths and in 42 different colors. “They still allow plenty of freedom (and can even be trailed on the floor when it's safe to do so) but stop you and your dog getting into trouble if a distraction appears ahead,” Sharkey said. “Always attach to a harness, rather than your dog's collar, for safety.”


Mistake: Not creating a safe space for your dog

Solution: Easing their anxiety by placing this dog carrier in a quiet room

Creating a safe, quiet space for your dog — and teaching them to retreat to that space when they’re anxious or scared — is an essential part of training. Without that safe space, your dog might act out when feeling overwhelmed or stressed. “Find a quiet room in your home where you can put a pet carrier, but do not close them in the carrier,” Gayle Martz, animal advocate and founder of the Sherpa Pet Trading Company, tells Bustle. This dog carrier is ideal for bringing that safe space with you while traveling — it works for pets up to 15 pounds and it comes with a foldable food bowl and cushion. “When it is at home, I recommend letting your pet go to and from the carrier as they choose and leave them treats or toys that are always in the carrier for them,” Martz says.


Mistake: Confining your dog for too much of the day

Solution: Using positive reinforcement like these massaging grooming gloves

“We see some pets get confined nearly full time, which causes extreme excitement and worse behavior during the rare times they are allowed out to interact with the family,” Colleen Lambo, a veterinarian with The Vets, tells Bustle. If you’re tempted to confine your dog when they’re too excited, instead Lambo recommends training them to be calm in your presence. Using positive reinforcement methods like these grooming gloves that massage your pet as they gently detangle fur and dirt will “divert their behavior much quicker than locking them up or punishing them,” Lambo says. These gloves have gentle and soothing silicone tips and boast more than 12,000 reviews.


Mistake: Confusing paw-licking & chewing with behavioral issues

Solution: Figuring out whether your pet has a food allergy

May dog owners often think paw licking/chewing is behavioral, but it can be a sign of a food allergy, according to Lambo. “If untreated, the obsessive behavior can be a constant irritation to you and your pet,” Lambo said. Lambo recommends Purina Pro Plan Sensitive Skin & Stomach Dog Food as a product to try. It’s chock-full of nutrients for your pup, such as easily digestible oatmeal, sunflower oil rich in omega-6 fatty acids, and prebiotic fiber for digestive health. It has a high 4.7-star rating, more than 22,000 reviews, and is gentle on sensitive stomachs.


Mistake: Not addressing a senior dog’s fears

Solution: Helping nervous dogs when they walk on slippery floors with anti-slip grips

Some dogs, particularly older dogs, can get nervous walking on surfaces with poor traction. “The fear of not being able to cross the floor safely is as important to manage as symptoms of physical pain,” Lambo says. She recommends yoga mats, rug runners, or these anti-slip paw protectors that help prevent slipping on tile and hardwood floors — and, bonus: it keeps paws clean from dirt and sand.


Mistake: Allowing your dog to eat too quickly

Solution: Encouraging your dog to take their time with this slow feeder

“Allowing your dog to eat too quickly can cause medical issues and vomiting,” Lambo says. Dogs who are rescued or living in multi-pet homes can sometimes eat too quickly, which can cause stomach upset and vomiting. With this slow feeder dog bowl, dogs are encouraged to slow down — and the maze-like shape will entertain them as they eat. With a nonslip base, the bowl will stay put during the feeding time frenzy.


Mistake: Ignoring your dog’s dental health

Solution: Keeping teeth healthy in between dental exams with these enzymatic treats

Not tending to your dog’s dental health can lead to severe oral pain, difficulty eating, and create larger medical issues. “If you aren't able to brush your pup's teeth daily (we recommend keeping their toothbrush near your toothbrush to help you remember), consider dental treats and toys to help keep them clean in between full dental visits,” Lambo says. These enzymatic chews made from beefhide help prevent plaque and tartar build-up, keeping teeth and gums overall healthier.


Mistake: Not finding ways to improve your dog’s teeth and gums

Solution: Cleaning their teeth as they play with this chew toy

Made from rawhide and grain-free ingredients, this chew toy is a flavorful distraction for bored or anxious dogs. It also helps clean teeth as your pup chews, and the toy is available in various sizes. With nearly 2,000 five-star ratings, reviewers like that this toy keeps their pets calm and busy — and they’re recommended for long car rides too.


Mistake: Leaving an untrained pup without a place to use the bathroom when you leave the house

Solution: Laying down pee pads when needed

According to Lambo, leaving an untrained pup without a place to go — like on these pee pads that she recommends — is a surefire way to come home to an unhappy surprise. This pack of 100 pee pads is designed to be both leak-proof and fast-drying, and they can be used for any age range, from puppies to seniors. You can also use them while traveling.


Mistake: Letting your dog wander the neighborhood unsupervised

Solution: Offering security for pets who like to roam with this outdoor/indoor playpen

“Letting your pup roam the neighborhood can be dangerous for them, and lead to challenging behaviors including them not coming home when called, or racing out of the door,” Lambo tells Bustle. You can still provide your pooch with a comfy place to explore the yard — within reason — so that they bask in a bit of sunshine without making a successful escape attempt. This metal pet playpen is a 16-square-foot enclosure that comes in five heights to suit different breeds and can be purchased with or without a door. You can set it up both indoors or outdoors with the help of eight included anchors that keep it in place.


Mistake: Feeding your dog table scraps & encouraging them to beg for food

Solution: Parceling out food on a schedule with this automatic dog feeder

It can be very tempting to feed your pup some leftover chicken off your plate, but this is a behavior that isn’t helping them in the long run. “Instead of sharing the food on your plate, I'd recommend you schedule your pup’s meal time around yours by getting them an automatic feeder like this one offered by PETLIBRO, which will be in charge of providing your furry friend with the right portion at the right time,” Dr. Sabrina Kong DVM, dog trainer and veterinary consultant at WeLoveDoodles, shares with Bustle. This feeder can be programmed for up to six meals per day, and an easy-to-read LCD screen indicates when the dispenser needs more food.