Effective Pet Training
Puppies are cute. Your new puppy is, obviously, the cutest. But you know what’s not cute? Your new puppy destroying your favorite shoes. Your new puppy doing her business in your bed. Your face, after seeing what your new puppy has done to your shoes and your bed.
Is your puppy a perfect angel as long as you are in plain sight, but the devil in them comes out when you’re not around? Maybe you thought discipline was just for kids, but it turns out that if you want a canine companion you can live with, you’ll have to put your (Puppy) Parent Hat on and learn how to discipline your dog. But before you start, take some time to make sure you’re taking the best approach. Once you have learned the basics of doggie discipline, you’re ready to start curbing those bad puppy behaviors like a pro!
Is Punishment an Efficient Dog Training Method?
Before we start analyzing the effectiveness of different training methods, we should understand what punishment, by definition, means. The term often implies a discipline method that is based on physical harm, like spanking or hitting your dog. However, there are actually both positive and negative forms of punishment, and they belong to two different categories:
- Positive obedience training
- Aversive obedience training
Punishment as an aversive method includes discipline that causes pain to your dog. Not only are these practices cruel and harsh, they are also completely ineffective. On the other hand, knowing how to punish a dog in a humane way is much more productive. Using positive reinforcements to train your dog, rather than resorting to force, is the best method to discipline your dog.
Punishment vs. Discipline
When done properly, punishment doesn’t have to be negative. Constructive punishment helps your dog learn through conditioning, and quickly understand what’s allowed and what’s not. Disciplinary methods that are considered to be positive and beneficial are:
- Using your voice to put a stop to unwanted behavior, rather than hitting your dog
- Taking their toys away
- Avoiding giving your dog attention when they misbehave
All the tips mentioned above are both humane and highly efficient at the same time. Your dog won’t feel scared or wary of you, but they will understand that what they did won’t be tolerated.
Are There Effects of Spanking?
Using hitting or spanking as a method of punishment can severely damage the relationship you have with your dog. If you start using force to discipline them, your dog can develop various behavioral issues. Some typical problems that hitting your dog will cause are:
- Insecurity and fearfulness
- Instinct to hide or run away from you
If you're beating your dog, you’re not addressing the problem, you’re teaching them to see you as a source of pain. Whether the reason for punishment is excessive barking, peeing in the house or snatching food off your counter, punishment in the form of spanking is only going to make matters worse. Your dog won’t be disciplined if they’re punished with force. In the majority of cases, physical punishment only makes dogs scared and confused. Why? Because you’re conditioning your dog to expect pain from you, without them being able to understand the reason for it.
How to Discipline a Puppy
Same as it is with humans, it's easier for dogs to get the hang of things while they are young. However, this doesn’t mean that the process will be easier. Puppies are full of energy and still at a stage of development when they need to learn everything from scratch. A puppy doesn’t understand it’s wrong to chew shoes, poop in the living room or bite your toes.
So, how do you raise a puppy to become a well-socialized, well-behaved dog? Through treats and praise. If you’re unsure how to punish a puppy, use the same positive reinforcement principles you would with adult dogs. It might seem that using rewards as a way to discipline a dog is counterproductive, but it’s actually a powerful training method. By learning that certain types of behavior result in affection and prizes, they’ll quickly realize they need to continue that practice. Similarly, when something of value is withheld or taken away, it teaches them to avoid actions that lead to this.
Why Positive Reinforcements Work Better Than Punishment
Unlike hitting a dog, which is cruel and futile, disciplining a dog with a reward system is a tried and true method that has real benefits. Constructive and positive training methods help your dog learn the proper behavior through conditioning, which is the best way to discipline a dog. When a certain activity results in eating treats or getting belly rubs, you can be sure your dog will want to do it as often as possible. For example, if going potty outside means being praised and petted on the head while doing business on the bedroom floor means time out, the choice is easy for a dog. They love pleasing their owners, and when disciplined properly, they’ll know how to do exactly that.
What Are The Best Solutions For Disciplining A Dog
Now that we’ve determined that positive, reward-based discipline is the key, the trick is to learn how to use that method with your own dog.
Focus on activities and items your pooch loves. In most cases, it will be snuggle time, walks, or a tasty treat. To properly discipline your dog, you will need to let them know you’re in control of their favorite activities. Whenever they do something they are not supposed to, like bite or run away, punish them by withholding the rewards they’re used to. However, even when you manage to establish positive and negative punishment through rewards, it can be hard to discipline your dog if you’re often away.
Even well-behaved dogs can suffer from separation anxiety, which leads them to engage in destructive behavior. Dog cameras that allow you to monitor their activities and assist positive reinforcement training can help you stay on top of the situation at all times. In the end, the most important thing to remember is that punishing a dog doesn’t have to be negative. Dogs need structure in their lives, and when you establish discipline in your household, both you and your dog will be much happier for it.
Basic Puppy Training
If you feel like your puppy problems have you at the end of your leash, you’re not alone! Luckily, these behaviors (link behaviors blog) can easily be curbed if you correctly reward and punish your puppy. Later on, we’ll address some of the top issues in detail, but first, let’s start with an overview of basic puppy discipline do’s and don’ts.
5 Steps to Discipline a Puppy without Punishment
1. Be consistent
If Skip is punished for barking at the neighbors on Tuesday but on Wednesday you decide to let it slide, he’s going to be confused and won’t learn the desired behavior. Giving in to him "just this once" will reinforce the negative behavior, leading to a puppy problem continuing into a dog problem; and staying your problem.
2. Be prompt
Only punish a behavior if you catch your puppy in the act. A bad puppy that has chewed through the screen door won’t understand that he is being punished for this when you reprimand him ten minutes later.
3. Be firm
A firm "no" from you signals to your puppy that his behavior is not ok, but yelling or physical aggression from you will just make him afraid of you. Dogs don’t understand that these responses are directed towards a behavior, and instead interpret them as threats to themselves. A good puppy parent and trainer should signal authority without losing his or her cool.
4. Use positive reinforcement
Equally important as punishing bad puppy behavior is rewarding the good. Did Dixie stop barking when you told her to stop? Go Dixie! Give her a treat. Did Duke go potty outside? That’s awesome! Tell him what a good boy he is.
5. Give timeouts
Turns out that timeouts don’t just work for naughty kids! Naughty puppies can also learn from timeouts, or “isolation”. Timeouts are most effective when used in response to behaviors like pestering other dogs, nipping, or chewing.
Pro tip: The best way to discipline your dog with timeouts is to give her some kind of verbal signal that you can say gently, for example, “Oops!” and then either leave the room, if you are alone, or lead her to an area where she will be separated from other people and dogs. Crates can also be effective timeout spaces. Ideally, a timeout should not last longer than a couple minutes.
Wrong Ways to Discipline Puppies
Don’t use physical punishment
Although this was encouraged in the past as a way to teach a dog who the “leader of the pack” is, it is not the most effective training tool. Using aggression teaches aggression, and while a smack on the nose or a Scruff Shake might cause Rover to stop a problem behavior, too much of this type of punishment just might turn him from a naughty puppy into a seriously bad dog. Furthermore, experts are beginning to discourage the use of positive punishments such as collar jerks and electrical fences because of the failure of these methods to bring about long-term behavioral change.
Don’t stare down, drag, or hold down your puppy
Behavior meant to threaten will teach your dog to fear or challenge you, and physical manipulation prompts her to defend herself. Neither path produces the outcome you desire, and even if these methods bring your puppy to submissiveness now, they could lead to pent-up aggression which can manifest itself later.
Don’t shout or scream
How do you scold your puppy? Puppies learn from the signals we give them, so if our tone of voice seems overly anxious or out of control, they will in turn become anxious and hyperactive. It seems logical that your puppy would be more attentive to your commands if they are loud or angry, but dog trainers recommend using a calm, but firm, tone instead.
Common Puppy Behavior Problems (And Solutions!)
Jumping on or nibbling people, barking inappropriately, peeing or pooping indoors, and chewing on furniture or other household objects are just a few of the puppy problems you’re familiar with as a puppy parent or can expect to be. This is one part of puppy parenting that can easily be more frustrating than fun. Here are a few of the most common problems experienced by new puppy parents like you, and what to do about them:
Barking, whining, and other forms of vocalization are natural for dogs, and especially for puppies. However, excessive barking is both annoying and inappropriate. Like toddlers, dogs vocalize to communicate a variety of messages. When addressing vocalization, consider first the likely reason, and then choose your response accordingly.
Puppies may vocalize to express boredom, excitement, anxiety, to get attention, to sound a warning, or as a response to other dogs. Depending on the cause, either a firm reprimand, "No." or withholding attention is the most effective approach for stopping puppy barking. If boredom is consistently the cause, consider investing in a few pet puzzles or Kong toys to keep your pet busy.
Nipping and biting is often not intended to be aggressive. More often than not, puppies use their mouths as a tool with which to explore their world, but if this goes unchecked, your puppy could learn some dangerous behaviors. As a pet parent, you should never respond to nipping by jerking your hand away, as this encourages the puppy to continue the "game". Instead, respond by clearly saying "ouch", and gently removing his mouth from your hand.
Like barking, chewing is a natural behavior for dogs. The problem comes when they’re chewing things they shouldn’t be. In puppies, this is usually due to teething or curiosity, while boredom or anxiety can prompt dogs to chew at any stage of life. Regardless of the reason, you probably want to know how to get your dog to stop chewing everything in sight. The best solution is to first signal to your puppy through a firm command that her behavior is not appropriate, and then to give her something nice to chew on instead of your sofa, a bone or chew toy ought to do the trick.
Aw, your dog misses you, that’s sweet! Until you come home to find your furniture clawed and the neighbors complaining because he barked all day. If your dog becomes a "bad puppy" while you are gone, it could be due to separation anxiety. If this is the case, the dog will display signs of anxiety as you prepare to leave and will typically start acting up 15-45 minutes after your departure.
The good news is that this behavior usually decreases naturally as your new puppy starts to understand that you will always come back. In the meantime, tools like interactive pet cameras or crates can ensure that your furry friend stays out of trouble while you’re gone.
Pooping/Peeing in the house
Or, in layman’s terms, "going potty in the house". Of all the hurdles of puppy training, this is definitely the smelliest and probably the one you’re most eager to overcome. The good news is that housebreaking your puppy can be quite easily done, but it does require some discipline on your part.
The first step is to establish a routine for your puppy of when he eats and when he goes outside. The canine digestive system is regular, so you can expect that your puppy will need to relieve himself within 5-30 minutes of eating. Setting and sticking to other "potty" routines for example, first thing every morning will help your puppy learn to take it outside.
Until your puppy is totally housebroken, it’s suitable to use "cratebreaking" as a halfway step while you’re out of the house. If your puppy understands that her crate is her “den”, she’s unlikely to soil this space, and so keeping your puppy in a crate while you’re away from home is a great way to avoid any stinky surprises when you return.
During the housebreaking process, it’s important to reward good behavior with treats or praise, while avoiding displays of frustration or punishment for accidents. If your puppy has already pooped or peed in the house, she won’t understand that you are punishing her for this behavior by the time you find it. However, if you catch her squatting in the house, you can forestall the action by distracting her with exclamations “Aha!” long enough to take her outside.
If your puppy consistently urinates or defecates in the house after a few weeks of housebreaking, she should be examined by a veterinarian to check that there isn’t an underlying health issue.
Remember: Puppies can be a handful, but with proper discipline, your new furball can learn habits to keep you both happy and safe.