Do's and Don'ts of Disciplining Dogs

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A well-trained puppy is the dream of every new pet parent, but there's no need for it to be just a dream. Proper training and supportive encouragement are the best ways to help a dog understand good behavior from bad. Of course, there will be mistakes as your dog learns, but if you know how to discipline a dog and redirect him, you'll have the best behaved pup on your street.

The good news is that dogs tend to be fast learners. If you can work with him on obedience training, disciplining a dog should be reasonably simple in the immediate moment and for the rest of his life! Before you begin, it's important to learn the do's and don'ts of how to discipline a dog. You want to make sure the punishment matches the action and you don't do anything to harm the bond you're currently building with your pet. Here are some tips to get you started on the right foot ... or shall we say, paw.

The Don'ts of Disciplining a Dog

Don't physically discipline your dog: You love your pets like family, so you'd never want to hurt your dog. It goes without saying that you should never lay a hand on your dog to discipline him, even if you're extremely frustrated. There is a never a reason to hit, shake or intimidate your dog. If you're ever feeling like the discipline is getting out of your control, it's time to hire a professional trainer or ask for assistance from your friends or family members. Physical discipline also can make the problem worse. Dog's struggle to connect the punishment with the action they committed, so they are likely not to change their negative behavior, but rather become fearful and less prone to listen.

Don't yell or scream at your dog: Your dog understands the difference between your normal voice and shouting voice, just as you understand the difference between a bark and his play sounds. However, if all the disciplining you do just sounds like loud noise to your dog, he'll eventually begin to tune you out. Or, even worse, yelling could agitate or excite your pup, which might encourage negative behaviors. Keep a calm voice and use clear, simple commands.

Don't rub your dog's nose in an accident: Sometimes it takes a puppy a little while to learn where it's acceptable to relieve himself. Since dogs often mark their territory in many places outdoors, it can be hard for puppies to learn not to do the same thing in the house. The smell they leave is a way of communicating with other animals. Even if they understand that they aren't supposed to go in the house, they may not understand the severity of their actions. Don't punish your dog by rubbing his nose in his accident. This can create an anxiety issue or break the bond between pet and owner. Clean up the mess and redirect your dog outside.

"To prevent frequent urination in the same household spot, remove the scent of previous urine marks with a good enzymatic cleaner," recommends Vetstreet.

Don't allow play that isn't okay: When a puppy is learning, he's not always going to have the best behavior. There's so many tempting things in your home, and it's important for you to make it clear which items belong to him and which ones are off limits. One of the most common behavioral concerns for pet parents is chewing. If you want to keep your shoes safe from your dog, keep them out of sight or restrict your dog access to certain areas of your home. Don't allow a behavior to continue because it's cute or because you think he'll grow out of it. Teach him how to play properly from the very beginning.

Scruffy gray dog next to a pillow with fluff coming out of it.

The Do's of How to Discipline a Dog

Do reinforce good behaviors: In an ideal relationship with your dog, you don't have to worry about discipline any longer and can simply praise him. There are many ways to positively reinforce good behaviors, and your dog will especially like getting healthy treats when he's done something right. The more you encourage your dog, the harder he'll work to make sure he follows the rules and keeps you happy.

Do catch your dog in the act: To successfully discipline a dog, address a behavior or action while or immediately after it happens. You can't reprimand your dog for something he did in the past. He simply won't understand why you're disciplining him. You can, however, teach your dog if you catch him in the act of doing something wrong. This doesn't mean you should booby trap your house, waiting for your dog to slip up. It simply means to be on the lookout and respond quickly and appropriately to his behavior.

Do consider your dog's health: If your dog suddenly begins to urinate on your carpets and furniture after being successfully house-trained for quite some time, there's a chance that his behavior is the result of a medical issue, such as a urinary tract infection. Since you're not a mind reader, a trip to the veterinarian's office is necessary. Dogs don't like to soil their home areas, so consider this a potential sign of an internal problem.

Do redirect your furry friend: When you're learning how to discipline your dog, one of the best routes to take is redirection. First, stop your dog in the act of whatever he's doing, then give him a different, pet parent-approved option. For example, if you walk into a room and notice him chewing your shoes or hairbrush, swiftly tell him "No!" and take the item out of his mouth. Once your dog is calm, present him with an actual chew toy. When he's munching on the toy, make sure to reinforce the positive behavior with lots of praise.

Disciplining a dog can be tough, but remember that you're helping him learn to be the best version of himself. If you treat your pup like you would a child, you will start to see that you're teaching him how to be a grown up. The time you spend training him properly will not only improve his behavior, but also the bond you share. Make sure to always be patient and invest time in your dog's training so you'll worry less about how to discipline a dog and spend more time enjoying his company instead.

Contributor Bio

Erin Ollila

Erin Ollila believes in the power of words and how a message can inform—and even transform—its intended audience. Her writing can be found all over the internet and in print, and includes interviews, ghostwriting, blog posts, and creative nonfiction. Erin is a geek for SEO and all things social media. She graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. Reach out to her on Twitter @ReinventingErin or learn more about her at

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