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How to Discipline a Dog: 5 Dos and Don’ts

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Although we’d all like to believe our furry friends can do no wrong, occasionally, their behavior is less than ideal. This has many dog owners wondering — what is the proper way to discipline a dog?

Whether it’s a new pup you’ve just welcomed home or a dog that’s been in the family for years, discipline should be treated as more than just consequences for undesirable actions — it’s a way to create trust and a bond between you and your pooch.

If you’re new to the training scene or need a refresher, here are five dos and don’ts for disciplining your dog.

Disciplining Your Dog: Dos

Disciplining your dog.


  • Do: Use Positive Reinforcement

    Positive reinforcement has long been a touted strategy for dog training. Used by guide dog trainers and police forces, this can be one of the best ways to communicate with your pup.

    When your pup does something good, you can use verbal praise, toys, and treats to reward him. For example, if your dog is jumping on a house guest, and when you ask him to sit, he does, reward him with his favorite treat and a pat on the head. We recommend buying training treats that not only taste good to your pup, but also have health benefits. 

    For positive reinforcement to work, you also have to make sure you don’t reward bad behavior. For dogs, sometimes all they want is any kind of attention, even if you’re scolding them. If your pooch jumps on you to play, some experts say that it’s best to turn the other way and ignore them rather than speak to them at all. 
  • Do: Be Consistent
    Consistency is key when it comes to successfully training and disciplining your dog. Whether you use verbal cues and designated hand signals to interrupt bad behavior or withhold rewards and put your pup in timeout after the deed is done, make sure you do so every time that behavior occurs.

    It can also be helpful to assign a specific signal or action for each behavior. More innocent behaviors, like barking at other dogs or people, might have verbal cues that get your dog to stop, while more unfortunate behaviors, like chewing or destroying furniture, might warrant a timeout. Keep in mind that timing is key, too. If you wait too long to take action, it could be too late for your pooch to remember what he even did wrong in the first place.
  • Do: Use Professional Help
    You don’t have to figure it all out yourself. Attending training classes or hiring a professional dog trainer might be the best option if your dog just isn’t getting it. A quick Google search should point you in the direction of a local trainer, but if you prefer to do it yourself at home, there are hundreds of books, YouTube videos, and blogs out there to help you navigate training your dog.

Disciplining Your Dog: Don’ts

Dog discipline tips.

  • Don’t: Shake, Shout, or Use Force
    Using any type of force to discipline your dog could result in injury (to one or both of you), and can even result in worse behavioral problems. This can also cause your dog to be scared of you and lead to anxiety and increased aggression. It’s always best to take rewards away for bad behavior and give rewards for good behavior. There are very few instances where any type of touching is needed.
  • Don’t: Give Up
    Training and disciplining a dog is not easy. It takes practice, patience, and consistency, but it’s well worth it in the end. Depending on your dog’s age, breed, and behavior, it can take anywhere from weeks to months to see a difference in behavior.

When learning how to discipline a dog, it’s important to remember that dogs don’t speak our language, so we have to give them the time they need to learn how to communicate with us. Dogs thrive on routine and consistency, so it’s up to us as dog owners to teach them the rules and continue to enforce them.