Every pet parent wants a well-trained dog. And training puppies when they are young is key. Puppies will make mistakes — but with the right training, they’ll learn not to repeat these mistakes. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to discipline a puppy the right way. It takes time, patience, and consistency to find what method works best for you and your puppy.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when figuring out the best way to discipline a puppy. Whatever method you try, always remember to use positive reinforcement to encourage positive behavior.
How To Discipline Your Pup
First thing’s first: it is NEVER acceptable to hit, scare, scream at or harm your pup – even when they exhibit bad behavior. Not only are harsh punishments cruel, but they also are not effective. Instead, there are plenty of ways to encourage good behavior while simultaneously building a wonderful relationship with your dog.
It’s going to happen. You’ll catch your puppy chewing on a piece of furniture, or something else in your house they shouldn’t be tearing up.1 If you can put these following tips to use, you’ll start forming a loving, fun bond with your puppy that will last for years to come.
It’s going to take some discipline on your part to keep your puppy acting correctly. You can’t punish your pup for doing something wrong one day, then ignore that unwanted behavior the next. This will quickly confuse your pup, and they won’t learn what’s right from wrong.2
If something is wrong, it will always be wrong – it really doesn’t matter the behavior. When a puppy tries to steal some food off of your plate on Tuesday, it won’t all of a sudden be cute on Thursday. Don’t give in – that will make your puppy think what they’re doing wrong is okay.3
You’re not always going to catch your puppy in the act of doing something wrong. But when you do, don’t hesitate to discipline them. The key to stopping bad behavior is to make your corrections at the time the misbehavior is happening, not afterward.4
When you “bust” your pup, so to speak, clap your hands loudly and say, “No,” or “Off,” or whatever other kind of phrase you choose. You might also want to consider filling an old soda can with some pennies and taping the top. This “shake can” will make an incredibly distracting noise. Your puppy will be sure to stop whatever they’re doing when they hear that racket.5
Put Your Puppy In “Time Out”
“Time out” isn’t just a way to discipline children. It can work for puppies as well. As soon as you catch your pup misbehaving, put them in a quiet room, or put them outside if you have a fenced backyard. Don’t just leave them there, of course. Bring your pup back in after about a minute or so and then act normally. If they go right back to misbehaving, put them in time out again for a longer period of time.6
Always Use Positive Reinforcement
Again, the best way to get your puppy to act like you want them to will be to reward good behavior. Positive reinforcement is a tried-and-true training method that works. Rather than punishments for doing bad things, puppies respond more to rewards for good behavior. Giving a treat and lots of praise will typically go a long way. And be sure to reward the good behavior as soon as they do it.7
Reasons To Discipline A Puppy
As your puppy gets more acclimated to their new home, there’s a good chance you’re going to have a lot of opportunities to instill proper discipline in your new family member. Here are just a few of the many examples you may encounter.
Doing Their “Business” Inside
You can expect your pup to either pee or poop inside at one time or another. The old-school method of dealing with this – for some people, at least – was to immediately take the puppy to the spot and rub their nose in it.
Not only is this cruel, it really doesn’t do any good. By the time you discover the mess, some time has likely gone by. If you haven’t caught your pup in the act and you try to punish them, the puppy has no idea what they did — and no idea why they’re being punished.8
Most puppies can’t control their bladder until they’re about four months old, so accidents are going to happen. If you do see them in action, give them a firm, “No,” and then put them on a leash and take them outside. They’ll eventually figure out that they need to go outside, not inside.9
Chewing On Your Shoes, Furniture, And Other Personal Items
This is another classic example of puppy misbehavior. In many cases, pups will chew on things they shouldn’t because they’re simply bored. They’re looking for ways to entertain themselves. If this is happening in your home, think about whether your puppy has enough stimulation. Also, secure any loose items you don’t want them to chew – put them where your pup can’t get to them.10
If you have to leave home for a few hours, put your puppy in their crate while you’re gone. Leave at least two or three chew toys so they can occupy their time. If you do spot your pup chewing on something they shouldn’t, clap your hands or use your shake can to get their attention. Then, give them something that’s okay for them to chew. Don’t yell – that will only scare your pup.11
This is another common form of undesirable behavior. For example, your puppy might get a little too carried away during play, either with you or another dog. If this is the case, get your pup into a quiet place so they can relax a little bit. It doesn’t have to be a long time out, either. A 15-minute period should do the trick.12
If the puppy is too aggressive while playing with you, simply get up and walk away. That should send a clear message that they need to calm down. If your pup is playing with other dogs, keep them on a long leash, and pull them away if they get too rough.13
Try To Keep Things Fun
It can be challenging trying to learn how to discipline a puppy. But if you’re patient, the time and effort you put in will be well worth it. Just remember to always use positive reinforcement. This approach will pay off in the long run, and it might not take as long as you think.
One last note: If you’ve tried to discipline your puppy and you’re not having much success, consider a professional trainer. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations.
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