how to discipline a dog

5 Best Ways to Thoughtfully Discipline Your Dog

by Amy Smith - 8/16/19

Every dog owner knows that playful pups can also be aggressive, disobedient and destructive. These unwanted behaviors need to be nipped in the bud, since they can worsen as your dog grows. You know it’s your job as a pet parent to teach your furry companion good manners and safe behavior. But you also probably know that inconsistent and overly rough punishments can cause more harm than good. So how do you discipline your dog both effectively and lovingly? Try these suggestions for thoughtful discipline.

how to discipline a dog with exercise

1. Prevent Misbehavior Through Healthy Exercise

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and for dogs the most effective way to prevent unwanted behaviors, such as excessive barking and jumping, is rigorous daily exercise. Dogs need exercise for physical health but also to stimulate them mentally. A dog who gets too little exercise is much more likely to be bored and have excess energy that will manifest in barking, jumping, whining and other obnoxious behaviors. Aim for at least an hour of exercise each morning to set your dog up for success before you try to implement any disciplinary actions.

how to discipline a dog by rewarding behavior

2. Reward the Behavior You Wish to See

Dogs, like kids, need to know what is expected of them, rather than just receiving a constant barrage of “no, no, no.” Positive responses from you will quickly encourage your dog to repeat the behavior that wins him that yummy treat or those words of praise and enjoyable petting and tummy scratching from you. This requires your thoughtful attention. When your dog walks properly beside you on a leash, responds to your commands to sit or lie down, waits for you at the door without jumping up or “does his business” outdoors in your preferred spot, reward him within seconds with a delicious snack and/or your lavish praise. Remember, most dogs love to please.

how to discipline a dog with distraction

3. Use a Hand Clap or Distracting Voice Command

When your dog inevitably commits some transgression that you want to stop, use a sharp noise, such as a single hand clap or a firm voice command (“Enough” or “Stop”) to get his attention. Often, this distraction will be all it takes to stop the behavior, and he’ll soon learn that that particular action always earns an unpleasant noise in response. Giving a second command, such as “Sit,” also provides him with an alternative action to replace the “bad” action.

how to discipline a dog with a time out

4. Give Him a Time Out

If distraction is not proving to be an effective deterrent, use a single, boring spot in your house as the time-out spot for your dog. Be sure this spot is free of toys, food and comforts, so your pup knows it is a place he would rather not be. When you observe your dog doing something you don’t like, use the distraction noise or command as a warning. If he continues the behavior, say “Time Out,” take him firmly by the collar or leash and lead him to the time-out spot, avoiding eye contact. After a few minutes, release your dog from time out, and praise him for calm behavior. In order to make time out effective, be sure all family members are using it the same way, for the same behaviors.

how to discipline a dog by ignoring

5. Ignore Him

Certain unwanted behaviors are your dog’s way of getting your attention (jumping, barking, nipping). When this is the case, your dog may perceive any type of response from you as a “win,” even if you are yelling at him to stop. Your shouts may just sound like loud dog conversation to him. Instead, try ignoring the behavior. Stand still, avert your eyes, and avoid saying anything to your dog. Although he may try even harder to get your attention at first, hold firm. When he eventually settles down, turn your attention back to him and praise his quiet behavior. He’ll soon learn that jumping and barking are not an effective way to get your attention.

Amy Smith is a writer specializing in family and parenting topics. She teaches English, Latin and music at a private school and lives with her husband and five children on a small homestead in rural Pennsylvania.