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How to Discipline Your Dog – What’s Working And Appropriate?

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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 actually a crucial behavior-forming process that is necessary for everyday situations.

No canine is born with the ability to differentiate between “good” and “bad”, so we should definitely stop ascribing human attributes and morals to dogs.

Positive reinforcement and supportive encouragement are the proper main 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 making sure your dog will have a good foundation for basic obedience commands.

How Do I Punish My Dog For Something Bad?

Punishing a dog is not always appropriate, especially if your dog has not even understood the task.

However, when an action is necessary, you can correct your dog and then positively reinforce the right behavior or you go with a simpler method – redirecting.

To be clear: Discipline has nothing to do with hitting your dog or rubbing a pup’s nose in their own pee. Yes, some people do that. Not a fan of stuff like squirt bottles either.

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.

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. To achieve that, you need clear commands and communication.

Golden Retriever is disciplined by being taught to walk nicely on a leash.
Photo by Tookapic on Pexels

Clear commands and consistency are key. Set up your dog for success in every possible training session instead of letting your dog fail and then having to correct him.

There’s some debate around what a “correction” really is. While some trainers avoid this altogether (i.e. popular clicker training), a simple no can be a correction.

What is the Best Way to Discipline a Puppy?

As we all know, puppies most often struggle with puppy biting, house training, as well as overexcitement in general.

The most effective way to discipline my Rottweiler puppy has always been to remove myself if she behaves badly.

Whenever she threw a tantrum or started puppy biting, I left the room and only returned once she was calmer.

Accidents are different, of course. Some people prefer a sharp “no” but everything beyond that is unnecessary. If she had an accident in the apartment, I would quietly clean it up and bring her to the right spot immediately.

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.

If I gave Amalia a clear command and she offered me the wrong behavior, I simply withheld the treat until she corrected herself to receive the reward. This only works if you have established a command already.

Never force your puppy into a sit or any other command, because with time, your pup might learn it but it’s always better if they offer the behavior themselves.

Is it Okay to Yell at Your Dog?

No, yelling at your dog is not an appropriate training method and might even create a fearful response.

Calmly telling your dog to do is the way to go. Quick bursts of frustration should be avoided, even if not directed at your dog, he’ll feel the energy.

Sometimes, it just happens. We get frustrated with training, sometimes with ourselves.

However, you should never yell at your dog in a prolonged manner, he doesn’t know what to make of it and will avoid the training sessions altogether.

Should You Punish Your Dog for Chewing?

No, the simple chewing behavior should not be punished.

However, if your dog is chewing something he is not supposed to (and he really knows the rule because he’s been introduced to it before), then you can correct him with a no and perhaps redirect him.

It’s best to get chewable stuff out of the way if you’re leaving your dog alone and know that he might try something like that.

Also, this behavior stems from boredom and a lack of exercise so look into whether or not your dog is physically and mentally challenged enough.

6 Tips To Discipline a Dog

These are all the various tips you should use when applying (mainly) positive reinforcement training.

1. Positive vs. Negative Punishment

There are four main methods of dog training (used alongside each other most of the time): 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 (can be as simple as a leash) to correct your dog which reduces the likelihood of this behavior.

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 positively reinforcing something is always preferable over negative reinforcement.

If you add something positive, your dog will look forward to the reward. If you add something undesirable, your dog might also show the desired behavior because he’s fearing the punishment. Which is better?

2. 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” comes 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.

3. 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 5-second rule. After five 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.

Example time!

Dog laying in green grass.
Photo by Mitchell Orr on Unsplash

Your dog is digging up the whole yard every time you let him outside. How do you correct him?

Don’t be mad at him when he is coming back inside or lying near his holes. He will have no idea why you are acting this way.

Many undesired behaviors emerge out of boredom, so keeping your dog entertained in the yard might solve the problem. Or you provide him with a sandbox to dig in. There’s more than one way to Rome.

Your other option would be to wait for him to start digging and then tell him “no” for his actions.

To completely eliminate a certain behavior, your chosen method of correction has to come every single time.

4. Redirecting

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.

5. 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 to your dog only teaches him to fear you.

As a responsible owner, you should be the respected leader and not the feared dictator.

6. 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.

Dog Doesn’t Listen At All – Health Issue?

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.

If your dog doesn’t listen, he may otherwise be in pain, or have hearing/sight issues – there’s a variety of possible health issues so get that checked out by a vet.

It may be as simple as your dog getting something stuck in his paw (especially dry paws can even crack easily) and suddenly whining/refusing training.

Before you jump to any conclusion, make sure that your dog is completely healthy and not misbehaving out of illness.

If all medical issues are ruled out, it’s probably your specific training system that isn’t working, and changing things might be a good idea.

When To Consult A Trainer For Dog Discipline

If nothing seems to help and you are 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.

Feel free to share any tips or ask questions in the comments down below regarding discipline and training.

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Disclaimer: This blog post does not substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. If your dog shows any sign of illness, call your vet.

About Danielle

Equipped with 5+ years of expertise as a Rottweiler owner, I partner with licensed veterinarians and trainers to share research-backed and actionable advice for you and your furry friend.

Suzan Woychuk

Wednesday 28th of June 2023

My dog is a two year old rescue and she is deaf. We have had her for two months and in the last few weeks she has pooped in the house several times. I take her out about six times a day and reward her with a small treat each time she urinates or poops. I don’t know what to do to correct this problem. Thank you.


Friday 30th of June 2023

Hi Suzan, I'm afraid it might just be a matter of consistent training. Try to adjust and narrow down her potty times to when she needs to go (after play, drinking, eating, sleeping, etc.) and just keep rewarding her, no corrections. If all else fails, it might be a medical issue causing her to be unable to hold it.

Rescues often need time to adjust, even more so if your pup is deaf, best of luck!

Cheers, Danielle


Friday 3rd of June 2022

My pup just turned one. He has a Benebone next to him because I redirected him with that. He grabbed it for a second and went right back to biting on everything else he can inappropriately find. Fortunately never furniture. He prefers soft goods, paper, shoes, glasses, and pens. Small items. When I am working he will desk surf and steal things. I say no, take the item from him, and give him the bone. He drops it and goes and searches for the next thing he knows he isn’t allowed to grab. The cycle continues. He knows he shouldn’t have it because if I even stand up or walk towards him he will bolt with it. If I can’t grab him, I do not chase after him. In that case, the only thing that works Is offering a trade. On rare occasion he will obey the “leave it” command. Right after he wakes up and the hour before he goes to sleep seem to be his witching hours when he is most into everything. I take him for a long walk. He comes back. Sleeps for 5 mins than starts right back up. I work from home so I am with him all day watching him and he is by my side all day. He follows me anywhere I go. Even to the bathroom and waits outside the door. I take him on three half mile walks a day. I give him plenty of attention. Still, my other half and I can’t even hug or kiss. He leaps between us and blocks him. If he leans in to kiss me my dog will stick his face in and steal the kiss. If we try to go into another room and put him in his crate or in the spare bedroom, he loses his mind. He is not aggressive at all. He is super sweet and friendly but it is exhausting. I feel like I am watching a toddler all day and have no time for myself. I sense he is doing all this for my attention but not sure what else I can do. Any additional advice?


Tuesday 7th of June 2022

Hey Darlene, so your pup's still young with one year, training approach changes slightly depending on whether you got him as an 8-week-old pup or a recent rescue. In regards to snatching everything he can: I'm afraid your only option is to keep teaching him what to take and what not to take. Dogs definitely go through different phases and you might even think it's gotten worse without any recent wrongdoing, you just need to persist and keep training.

You can try redirecting or trading with a toy or even treat but don't necessarily have to. The "leave it" or "out" commands are essential to train time and time again. I even do it with my 3-year-old Rottie on occasion even though she does this perfectly just to reinforce the behavior.

Exercise: You stated that you go on a long walk but then went on to say you go on 3x 1/2 mile walks per day, that's definitely not enough. High-energy breeds easily need 5 or even 8 miles per day of exercise. With three short walks, my Rottweiler would definitely not calm down but one really long walk (4+ miles) is usually enough to get her to sleep well.

Play and mental exercise are also essential so make sure you tick these boxes too. More exercise will also surely improve the snatching stuff part. A bored dog gets into trouble and it's no wonder he gets up right after a walk.

For the following around the house: It's essential to prevent separation anxiety and you should keep crate-training if that's what you want to stick to in the future, doesn't matter if he's losing his mind, as long as you introduce the alone time positively and exercise and feed him.

Cheers, Danielle


Monday 10th of May 2021

My older big beagle is sometimes aggressive or shows his mad-dogging look at my other small dog that doesn't even do anything but stay away from him to not bother him. This happened only a few times but i want to know what to do so I don't just ignore it. I think might be territorial or when myself and fiance go outside where they are both resting. They do play most of the time and its nice when they are playing but what can i do when I see the behavior so i don't provoke him to attack? I want to redirect or positive punishment. He did attack him twice a while ago, once when they were sleeping in the night (i think it was territorial) so now they sleep on different sides. and the other was when it was feeding time the beagle attacked my small dog, my beagle is food aggressive but only when the actually food is present. and i let my small dog inside to eat so the beagle eats outside. and what i did was didn't feed him half an hour after he was supposed to and he hasn't attacked him since then before feeding time. but i do need him for the other 'no reason'. and i know they need exercise so that could be one thing. during quarantine we haven't been able to go places besides a few walks. I hope you can help!


Saturday 15th of May 2021

Hey Gisela,

if your dog attacks the other dog, that's definitely something you have to solve asap. Exercise can be part of it so try to exercise your dogs daily, even in quarantine. You don't have to go on long road trips, but two walks with playtime as well as mental exercise are essential.

I have an article on food aggression and one on dog aggression towards another dog in the house.

Hope you'll get it solved soon, Danielle

Catherine maciver

Thursday 1st of April 2021

On walks my dog becomes uncontrollable when any other dog approaches. I always have him on a lead during walks. He is a shi tzu cross spanial and very strong what can I do to encourage him to ignore/accept other dogs without this “ready to growl- fight” attitude?.


Thursday 1st of April 2021

Hi Catherine, it really depends on what your dog does when dogs approach. Being uncontrollable can also mean being extremely overexcited but since you mention he's growling and/or ready to fight, I'd assume the problem is deeper.

Depending on his history, past negative experiences, etc. he might need desensitization to other dogs and counter-conditioning to start connecting other dogs with something positive again.

The fact that he's leashed all the time isn't so bad, too many owners are letting their untrained dogs roam around and bother people or other dogs. Good for you for keeping any accidents from happening for now. Of course, you'll still want to consistently train him to at least be able to let him off-leash sometimes and with time, patience and the right training it'll happen.

Cheers, Danielle