You come home to find your dog has again turned over the trashcan and distributed garbage around your house. After surveying the mess, you look at your dog. You think he knows he's guilty because he's looking at you crouched down with his ears back. You point to the mess and yell, "Bad dog!" Besides allowing you to let off some steam, did your outburst do any good in terms of preventing this from happening again? Does your dog understand why you're mad? I'm afraid that the answer is a resounding "Nope."
When To Correct a Dog's Bad Behavior
If you're going to punish a dog at all -- and punish isn't really the correct word; training and correction are really what you should do -- you need to do so immediately. You need to catch your dog red-handed, or red-pawed, and correct him on the spot. Otherwise, all your dog learns is to be afraid of you and to act in a submissive manner when you give off the annoyed or angry vibe. So if you discover sometime after the fact, for example, that your dog urinated on the carpet, dragging your dog to the area and rubbing his nose in the urine will not help. It will only make your dog afraid of you, which could cause submissive urination in the house.
How to Correct
Correct your dog if he displays unwanted behavior right in front of you. Interrupt the behavior when your dog harasses another pet, steals your socks, sniffs around the garbage, barks for attention, jumps on you, acts rowdy when visitors arrive and begs at the dinner table. The second you see your dog misbehaving, firmly say (don't scream!) "No!" or "Ah!" then offer him a chew toy to distract him from the behavior. If your dog is constantly getting into trouble, he might not be receiving enough exercise. Active and young dogs need at least 30 minutes of daily exercise. If they don't get it, they find ways to entertain themselves.
Issuing timeouts similar to ones parents give small children can work with dogs who are not incessant barkers. Have your dog wear a leash that he can drag around with him when he walks. Say you want to teach him to stop begging at the dinner table. As soon as he starts whining or jumping on you, you say, "Too bad!" Then, immediately take the leash and march him to the nearest room with a door. Put him in the room for 10 to 15 seconds, but don't let him out if he barks. This is the reason this method might not work with barkers. If he barks, tap the door to signal him to stop. Wait the 10 to 15 seconds and let him out. Repeat this until he stops the behavior.
If you want to punish your dog for something he already did -- you'll just have to get over it, as you're too late! Your dog already had his fun and has no idea why you are now punishing him. A better way is to prevent the bad behavior from occurring. If you know you have a dog who chews your socks or shoes, for example, keep those items where your dog can't get to them. Also, provide suitable chew toys. Praise your dog when you see him chewing the toy instead of your new shoes.
By Laura Agadoni
About the Author
Laura Agadoni has been writing professionally since 1983. Her feature stories on area businesses, human interest and health and fitness appear in her local newspaper. She has also written and edited for a grassroots outreach effort and has been published in "Clean Eating" magazine and in "Dimensions" magazine, a CUNA Mutual publication. Agadoni has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University-Fullerton.