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How to Discipline a Dog Properly

How to Discipline a Dog Properly

How to Discipline a Dog Properly: The Do’s and Don’ts for New Owners

Dog training shouldn’t be difficult.

Yet, when you get a new pet, you find yourself overwhelmed with questions on how to discipline a dog properly.

Discipline is a critical component to proper training because it is where you mold your dog’s behavior, and it sets the tone for the rest of your dog’s life.

While it is easy to blame the pooch for bad habits, realize bad behaviors often stem from human training mistakes.  

It is not all your fault, however. A mixture of bad advice from friends and family, how you saw family handle your pets in the past, and misguided information on the web all contributes to poorly executed discipline.

Now is the time to toss aside all the books and training videos and explore these essential do’s and don’ts. Some might not surprise you, while others you likely haven’t heard before. Combining the insights of experts in the field, we have compiled a list of disciplinary tips and tricks that will turn you into a dog raising pro.

The Do’s of How to Discipline a Dog

It is easy to focus on what you are doing wrong, but what you are doing right is equally critical. Adding or removing these items from your training routine is up to you, and your dog’s personality.

Some breeds react better to specific training methods, but your dog’s unique personality also dictates how they respond to positive and negative reinforcement.


Do Reinforce Behavior You Want

positive reinforcement

Training is about establishing a connection with your dog. The faster you create that positive connection, the less discipline the future holds. Cesar Millan promotes positive reinforcement but also notes that new puppy parents are guilty of adding too much reinforcement. So, while reinforcing is right, do so in moderation.

Start with positive reinforcement of those behaviors you want your dog to keep. Healthy treats when they do something right encourages them to keep it up. After all, who would not want to work hard for more treats?


Do Reinforce in the Act

Dog Trainer Teaching Dogs

Punishing your dog for something they did hours ago equates to your boss lecturing you about a typo you made a month ago in a report. Can you fix it now? Can you learn from that mistake? Probably not.

A dog’s reaction to a mistake works similarly. To discipline your dog, catch them in the positive or negative act. Do not reprimand for negative behavior later – your dog doesn’t understand reprimands for actions occurring hours ago.

When you catch them in the act, react immediately. It is the only way to reinforce in your dog what you accept or don’t accept from their behavior.


Do Think of Health

checking health of the dog

Let’s paint a scenario.

Your dog, which house trained months ago, suddenly starts urinating on your carpet. Out of frustration, you discipline them. While natural, consider your pet’s health before jumping to disciplinary action. A dog that has been housebroken a few months will not revert to puppy puddles all over the house without reason.

Dogs, contrary to how it seems, despise soiling their living areas. Take your pup in for a quick vet check and make sure those recurring accidents are not a sign of a medical issue – like a urinary tract infection.


Do Redirect Bad Behaviors Toward Good

dog playing with balls

Much like working with a toddler, your puppy needs redirection. You can discipline bad behaviors but still redirect your dog toward the proper behavior. Discipline only tells them they did something wrong, but how will they learn what is the right step to take instead?

For example, your puppy chews on your shoe. Discipline them for doing so, firmly state “no,” and replace that shoe with something that they can chew on – like their favorite toy. Once they start chewing away on the toy, praise them and administer that positive reinforcement that tells them they are on the right track.


Do Add Training Games

Do Add Training Games

Professional puppy trainer Andrea Arden suggests getting a leg up on your dog’s behavior by adding in training games and fun.

When your dog has a favorite toy or treat, use those to your advantage. Do not confuse this with teasing the dog. Instead, ask your dog to do something and when they obey and succeed, reward them with the toy or treat you offered in exchange. Eventually, your dog will catch on that when they obey, they receive rewards.

The Don’ts of How to Discipline a Dog

You know what you should do, now here is what you should not do.

Lousy dog training habits are difficult to reverse. Therefore, it is critical you think of not only the right habits, but the bad habits that will create blockades in your training success.


Don’t Use Physical Discipline

man hitting his dog

Intimidation, including physical strikes to your dog, don’t teach positive behaviors.

Instead, physical discipline instills a history of negative reinforcement, and instead of your dog’s respect, they fear you. One Today special highlights how there is no reason to ever use physical pain or strikes on man’s best friend. In fact, physical discipline is considered one of the biggest pet training mistakes an owner can make – and one that is hard to correct later.


Don’t Use Yelling or Screaming to Get Across Your Point

Don’t Use Yelling or Screaming to Get Across Your Point

Like striking, raising your voice, yelling, or screaming does nothing but train your dog to ignore the variations in your voice. A dog tunes out the changes in your tone, and for some breeds or personalities, yelling could create anxiety or further encourage negative behavior.

Using a firm, calm voice is all it takes to get your dog to listen.


Don’t Rub Your Dog’s Nose in Their Messes

dog getting scolded

Every new dog owner seems guilty of this, and it is because for years it has been said that rubbing your dog’s snout into their mess discourages them from doing it again.

Despite your warranted frustration that your dog has soiled the carpet again, avoid that urge to rub their nose in it. According to American Humane, this only teaches your dog to fear (not respect) you, and it creates adverse reactions for housebreaking. In fact, your dog might hide when they need to go rather than tell you to let them outside.


Don’t Leave Items that Your Dog Cannot Resist

Don’t Allow Behaviors Even if They are “Cute”

You have worked hard to teach your pup to stop chewing on your shoes. While you must catch them in the act to punish them and deter the behavior, you also don’t need to leave out the temptation during training.

Put away items your dog likes to chew on until they’ve learned to control themselves. Also, restrict your dog’s access to areas of the home where they are prone to getting into trouble.


Don’t Allow Behaviors Even if They are “Cute”

dog bite its pillows

Let’s face it, a puppy jumping, and nipping can be cute and something you might write off as behavior they will grow out of. While your puppy indeed matures, they will not stop behaviors just because they added a few years.

You must train your dog so that they know what is acceptable and not acceptable in your home. When your dog does something wrong – regardless of how adorable it might be – correct it immediately to break the cycle. Allowing it to continue only means complicated behavior correction later.

Are You Guilty of These Common Training Mistakes?

Dogs are smart.

While they learn quickly and adapt well, owners tend to have a false sense of what is realistic when it comes to training.

Whether your dog is a quick learner or requires extra time, these mistakes are some to avoid:

  • Impatience: Dog training is something that requires patience. Dogs learn at their unique pace, and while some books might say your dog learns to sit or potty trains by a certain age, this is merely a guideline. Dogs also sense frustration. So, go into your training session with the expectation that results will not happen overnight.
  • Expecting Too Much Too Soon: Consider your dog’s training like a child graduating through the grades of school. Would you expect your kindergartener to know how to multiply numbers? The same goes for your dog. Do not expect older dog successes from a puppy. Slowly increase your dog’s challenges, but do not bombard them with complicated commands too early – you only create more work for yourself in the end.
  • Relying on Bribes: Yes, positive reinforcement and treats work, but bribing doesn’t. Treats are presents for good responses, but you shouldn’t hold it in front of your dog like a bribe. Instead, ask something of your pup, and if they do it right, their treat appears out of the blue. Waving it in front of them means they will only respond to bribes in the future.

Sometimes Extra Help is Necessary

Whether this is your first dog or your fifth, every dog’s ability to train is unique.

Each breed combined with a dog’s personality makes training an entirely new experience. When you find yourself overwhelmed or with a dog that doesn’t respond to your training or disciplining, you might need professional help.

Look for a training program in your area or talk to your veterinarian for a list of trainer referrals. Hiring a pro for help doesn’t mean you’ve failed your pet.

Instead, you’re setting yourself and your dog up for years of training success. A professional can identify unique needs of your dog and create a training routine making the process easier.

A valuable resource when you need professional help includes Angie’s List or contact the American Kennel Club’s GoodDog! Helpline.

While you might stress over how to discipline a dog properly, realize you are not alone in this epic battle. Being a fur baby parent is more than just training, socializing, and feeding. See the fun, read more expert-level tricks, and watch the videos all available for dog lovers right here on



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