Disciplining your dog is an important part of training and when done the right way, it will ensure better behavior and stronger communication.
Most people think about discipline as punishment but it’s a crucial behavior forming process that is necessary for everyday situations.
Your dog will learn to differentiate between right or wrong, something that no canine is born with.
Positive reinforcement and supportive encouragement are the proper training methods but your dog will make a lot of mistakes along the way and correcting these mistakes can be tricky.
Ultimately, disciplining a dog is the first step to make sure your dog will have a good foundation for basic obedience commands.
Understanding How To Discipline Dogs
Discipline has nothing to do with hitting your dog or rubbing his nose in his own pee. Yes, some people do that. Positive and negative punishment do come in many forms but physically correcting your dog is not a part of it.
Dogs are extremely fast learners which means that they can quickly develop positive but also negative behaviors. A dog that has no discipline, rules or structure will develop many undesired behaviors because he has no one to guide him.
This not only annoys you the whole day but it also puts a lot of stress and uncertainty on your dog because he simply doesn’t know what to do. Canines are not born with the understanding of the human right or wrong morals and it’s something that has to be taught with patience.
Your dog has to understand every rule (for example no pets in the kitchen) and has to know what is expected of him in every second of his life. The clearer your commands and your communication is, the better relationship you will establish.
You simply cannot have your dog roaming around and doing everything he wants to do. Dog training comes down to two fundamental parts: rewarding desired behavior and correction undesired behavior.
But rewarding your dog the right way is easier than correcting him in a way he understands.
Discipline and correction must come at the right time and with adjusted intensity. You can only use methods that your dog is able to understand which doesn’t include physical punishment. The 10 tips below will help you make the correct disciplining choices every time.
1. The Right Timing
The right timing for correction is crucial, you have to catch your dog in the act every single time. Persistence and timing are important for both rewarding and disciplining. You can only reward or correct a dog during or immediately after his actions.
A good rule of thumb is the 3-second rule. After three seconds, your dog won’t have any idea what he is being punished or rewarded for. Always supervise your dog, especially around areas where he has developed a bad habit.
For example: Your dog is digging up the whole yard every time you let him outside. How do you correct him? Don’t be mad with him when he is coming back inside or laying near his holes. He will have no idea why you are acting this way.
In this situation, you can either redirect your dog to prevent this behavior from even happening. Many undesired behaviors emerge out of boredom, so keeping your dog entertained in the yard might solve the problem.
Your other option would be to wait for him to start digging and then telling him “no” for his actions.
To completely eliminate a certain behavior, your chosen method of correction has to come every single time. You can read more about that below. At the end, I will also share my personal correction methods.
2. Positive vs. Negative Punishment
There are four main forms of dog training. Positive and negative reinforcement and positive and negative punishment. In this case, positive and negative don’t mean good and bad, one is not better than the other.
Positive punishment simply means that you are adding something (such as a leash or e-collar) to correct your dog which reduces the likelihood of this behavior. Examples include spraying the dog water in the face, correcting him with a leash or doing the alpha role.
Negative punishment, on the other hand, removes something that the dog values (owner, treats, toys) to decrease the likelihood of this behavior in the future. If your puppy is excessively biting on your hands and feet, simply leave the room.
You are removing your attention and presence as punishment which is very active with most dogs.
I personally believe that adding something to your correction (positive punishment) is unnecessary and often times overacted. Your dog will learn so much quicker by removing something that he desires even for a few seconds.
Redirecting is a mix of negative punishment and positive reinforcement. It’s not always the most appropriate correction but it works in many types of situations.
For example, your dog is ripping up your shoes again and pieces are scattered on the floor. Grab a toy and hide it behind your back. Tell your dog “no” and call him to you into a sit.
If he calmly comes and sits, reward him with a chew toy like the Benebone to show him that it’s okay to chew on that toy but not on the shoes.
4. Discipline ≠ Dominance
Many people are under the false assumption that discipline can only be achieved through dominance and force. This might include shouting, pinning your dog to the ground or doing the alpha roll.
Dominance or alpha training is an outdated method that generally does more harm than good. Applying force onto your dog only teaches him to fear you. As a responsible owner, you should be the respected leader and not the feared dictator.
5. Rewarding Positive Behavior
Rewarding positive behavior that follows a correction is just as important as the correction itself. If done right your dog will quickly understand that he should perform the reinforced behavior rather than the wrong one.
Sometimes, your dog might make a self-correction if your “no” came immediately. This should always be encouraged and reinforced with a reward. You can use anything of value to your dog such as toys, treats or physical affection.
If the behavior has been successfully corrected and rewarded multiple times in the past then quick verbal praise will do the trick. Every dog is different, so only focus on the rewards that your dog is really interested in.
6. Negative Reinforcement
Negative reinforcement is the removal of a negative response which causes an increase in the triggered behavior. Meaning your dog will be exposed to an unpleasant sensation that only stops once he performs the correct behavior.
For example, your dog is pulling on the leash so you use a prong collar that applies constant pressure when the dog pulls. He will only be saved from this unpleasant feeling if he walks on a loose leash.
7. Staying Consistent
In order to successfully eliminate a bad habit or behavior, you will have to correct your dog every single time in the exact same way. You have to be extremely consistent with the methods you use and you will have to supervise your dog all the time to perform these corrections.
Rules and routines should be set and final and every family member needs to be aware of them. Once you have decided on a rule, no exceptions can be made. If your dog is not allowed on furniture then he can never go up there.
Consistency and persistence will help you structure your dog’s training and he will be able to fully understand what is expected of him. It’s so important to always train with your dog using the same techniques.
8. Consider Your Dog’s Health
Sudden and drastic changes in behavior can also be caused by illness or pain. If your dog suddenly starts peeing inside the house for no specific reason, he might suffer from bladder issues.
Aggressive signs or growling when being touched can be an indicator that your dog is in pain. Before you jump to any conclusion, make sure that your dog is completely healthy and not misbehaving out of illness.
9. Get Help
If nothing seems to help and your just at your wit’s end then consider getting help from a professional behaviorist or dog trainer. He/she will be able to assist you in training and will be able to answer any related questions.
You can also attend training classes to keep your disciplining techniques up to date. Continue on researching online or on Youtube. Videos and articles can be great resources for any topic.
10. How I Discipline My Dog
I am definitely not a fan of squirt bottles or scruff shakes and I don’t believe that they are necessary. The most effective way to discipline my dog has always been to remove myself if she behaves badly. But the last time I had to do this was when she was a puppy.
Whenever she threw a tantrum or started puppy biting, I left the room and only returned once she was calmer. If she had an accident in the apartment, I would quietly clean it up without giving her any attention for a few minutes. She loves my attention more than anything so this was the worst punishment for her.
Recommended Reading: How to Housetrain Your Puppy
Remember that every dog is different but puppies, in general, are very social and love to receive affection and attention. Nowadays I like to command her into a sit right after telling her “no”. Because of that, I immediately create a positive behavior that I can reward.
If I am giving Amalia a clear command and she offers me the wrong behavior, I simply withhold the treat until she corrects herself to receive the reward.
Feel free to share any tips or ask questions in the comments down below regarding discipline and training.