How to Discipline a Dog Without Punishing Them

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naughty basset hound that needs disciplining

As a pet parent, one of the most difficult decisions we face is how to discipline a dog. Choosing a certain method of discipline can either make or break our furry friends. Most of us want a spirited and happy canine. However, we also want a pet that will toe the line. We want a pup that won’t wreck the house and garden. We want a doggo that is well socialized. Read on for tips on how to discipline a dog without breaking their spirit!

Disciplining Your Dog is a Big Part of Pet Parenting!

How do you raise the perfect pooch? Most puppies are not born with built-in know-how of how to live in the human world. A 12-week old puppy does not instinctively know that peeing on the Persian rug is frowned upon. Nor, do they know that your Supergas are not a chew toy.

Dogs must learn how to fit into human society. Discipline will come into play in this process. However, if you start with the positive reinforcement training early, there will be very little need for discipline.

How to Discipline Your Dog Without Breaking Their Trust

Be consistent and consequent in both your teaching and your disciplining. In this way, you will raise a confident, well-balanced dog. How to discipline a dog is all about consistency. Don’t let your pup jump on the couch today and then freak out about it tomorrow.

Decide up-front what behaviors you expect from your dog. Day-by-day, with positive reinforcement, guide them to stick to what you expect from them.

Use a Firm Vocal Que

Shouting at your hound is not effective in the long run. Consistent yelling and ranting during training sessions and at home will result in your dog tuning out.

A firm vocal cue in a stern tone of voice, such as “Uh-uh”, or “No”, will suffice.

Have a Spray Bottle with Water at Hand

Wondering how to discipline a dog with a spray bottle? You can use a spray bottle filled with clean water to squirt at your dog when you catch them doing something undesirable. If you catch Fido muddying the couch, say “uh-uh” and spray a cloud of water in their face. With time the voice command alone should be enough.

person reprimanding pug wondering how to punish a puppy

Put Your Dog in a Time Out

How to train a dog with some tough love: In some cases, a dog just does not understand why you are correcting them for a certain behavior. Or perhaps, the satisfaction of barking at the courier guy far outweighs the inconvenience of a mist of water in the face.

Time to step it up a notch. Time for a time-out. If you have done crate-training or having a sleeping/rest area for your pup: this is not the spot for a time-out. Isolate your dog in a space where they have no contact with you and no chance for destructive behavior. A bathroom or mudroom is a good idea. Time-out should be no longer than 5 minutes.

Shorten Your Leash

You are walking with your dog on a leash and they are launching themselves at the dogs behind the neighbor’s gate! Here’s how to discipline a dog with a leash: You can do a short and sharp pull on the lead. This paired with an “Uh-uh”, should distract their attention long enough to get them to refocus on you.

If You Don’t Catch Them in the Act, You’ve Missed Your Chance!

It is believed that dogs have about a 2-second window for cause-and-effect. In other words, if you don’t “punish” or correct unwanted behavior within two seconds of it happening, there is no point. Your dog will not link digging up the rose bush with your fierce anger half an hour after said bush has been unearthed.

The trick with this is “prevention is better than cure”. This is where methods such as crate-training and tether training come in very handy. If your dog is confined to a space where no undesired behavior can take place, it won’t.

Also, if your puppy is almost always within your sight while it is still learning all about this human world, it will have less opportunity to wreak destruction without you being able to stop it in its tracks.

There are Times You Need to Lay on the Tough Love

Punishing with force or harm is as unacceptable as it is ineffective. Yet, sometimes we need to take things up a notch. To teach your dog that their behavior is not acceptable, look to constructive (or positive) punishment. This includes methods that will ‘punish’ without inflicting any kind of psychological or physical pain. For example:

  • Ignore your dog when they do not behave appropriately. Boisterous puppy keeps jumping up at you? Fold your arms over your chest and turn away from them. Everything about your body language will let your pupster know that their attempts at getting your attention are not working.
  • When your dog is playing too rough. Say “No” in a firm voice and pack all their toys away for a short time.
  • If you are at a distance and you see your pooch doing something illegal. Shout “NO!” or “Uh-Uh”. If you need to clap your hands or stamp your feet to be noticed, do. Anything to do distract them from the unwanted activity.
  • If you catch your canine mid-pee on the Persian, place them in a time-out.

3 Times Your Dog Needs to Be Disciplined

There are some animal behaviors that are just an absolute no-no in the human context. These need to be nipped in the bud ASAP.

  1. Chasing cats and other small animals.
  2. Playing too rough.
  3. Aggressive behavior towards other dogs, humans, and animals.

person showing how to discipline a dog

Punishing a Dog for Bad Behavior is Never OK

Punishment can mean different things to different people. “Cruel to be kind” is not a thing in the animal-world. You need to know how to discipline a dog without losing it! Disciplining your dog by punishing with physical harm is not ok.

Smacking or hitting a dog can cause pain to your dog. It is cruel and harsh. Most of the time, this method of punishment shows very little effect. In fact, it can be counterproductive. Moreover, dogs that are hit and hurt can become aggressive and stubborn.

Punishing a dog for messing in the house by rubbing their nose in their feces is cruel and ineffective. They will not understand the reason. Similarly, they could develop fear and anxiety about potty training. As a result, this could cause them to mess in the house more often. Punishment teaches a dog that something is unpleasant. It does not teach them what is wanted of them.

Firm and Gentle Can Go Hand in Hand

How to discipline a dog in a nutshell: A firm vocal reprimand with a gentle touch can work well together to achieve a quick result of positive behavior. By denying your pup a game of tug of war or a treat because they didn’t obey a voice command, can seem cruel.

However, a consistent and consequent approach to training will reap rewards much more quickly. Holding back on the treats for truly good behavior will show your pup that they must focus and work hard for their reward. This will only strengthen their respect for you, and the bond that you share.

What the Most Effective and Best Dog Training Techniques Have in Common

Let’s look back to our puppy’s ancestors: In the wild, food = life. If you can’t find food, you can’t survive. With our domesticated canines, their food source is us. If we reward good dog behavior with food/treats, they will learn to repeat that behavior.

Reward-based training methods such as positive reinforcement are the most effective ways to form a well-behaved dog. With these techniques, you will focus on the good and weed out the bad. All while maintaining a fun and challenging training rapport with your pup!

How to Avoid Your Dog’s Bad Behavior and Habits

Still wondering “how to discipline a dog”? Well, be consistent in your rewarding and reprimanding. Act quickly to prevent or stop bad things from happening. The key to training your dog quickly and thoroughly is to pay attention to their cues. Constant vigilance in the early days will go a long way to preventing the development of bad behaviors.

person showing how to discipline a puppy with a dog clicker

Attention, Physical Exercise, and Mental Stimulation are Often All it Takes!

Different dogs have different mental and physical needs. Working dog breeds such as Border Collies and Golden Retrievers are super intelligent and have a bundle of energy. To remain well-behaved, these dogs will require more mental stimulation. They will also need more daily exercise.

A trundle down to your local coffee shop and a chat with the barista will be enough for your Papillon. Not so much for your German Shepherd. If you have a working dog, you will want to keep their minds and their bodies busy with plenty of exercise and training activities. This will prevent your dog from settling into bad habits and destructive behavior.

Common Questions About How to Discipline Your Dog

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