How to Punish a Dog

Two Parts:Responding to Bad BehaviorPreventing Bad Behavior

When your dog acts out with bad behavior, you may want to punish him. This simply means you want to let him know that the behavior is unacceptable. Instead of shouting or hitting your dog, you'll want to use more effective punishments, like ignoring him or withdrawing your attention. Since dogs respond to positive reinforcement, your dog will quickly learn what behaviors to avoid.

Part 1
Responding to Bad Behavior

  1. Image titled Punish a Dog Step 1
    Correct your dog's behavior. If your dog misbehaves, give him a cue or sign that he's made the wrong decision. You might say, "think again," or a similar phrase in a cheery, but corrective tone of voice. The tone should suggest, "Are you sure you want to do that?" Your dog will recognize your tone as much as the words.[1]
    • Remember that your dog is not maliciously trying to disobey you. When your dog does something you don't want him to do, you need to let him know not to repeat this behavior in the future.[2]
  2. Image titled Punish a Dog Step 2
    Remove your attention. If the dog continues to do the wrong thing, turn your back or leave the room so that your withdraw attention.[3] Dogs are sociable animals and want to be at the center of things. Being left out or ignored makes them reconsider their actions. If you catch bad behavior early, you can stop it before it's ingrained.[4]
    • For example, if you're teaching your dog a command and he refuses, say, "think again," and turn your back. Your dog should realize that he's done the wrong thing. Turn back around and repeat the initial command. If he still doesn't cooperate, say, "think again," and turn your back. Repeat this until he understands the correct behavior.[5]
  3. Image titled Punish a Dog Step 3
    Avoid giving attention to bad behavior. Once you know how you should react to a disobedient dog, understand what reactions reinforce bad behavior. Sometimes, your dog might be acting badly just to get your attention. By acknowledging your dog or shouting at him, you're accidentally rewarding the behavior with attention. This will make him more likely to repeat the behavior in the future. Remember that even scolding and shouting are rewards to a dog.[6]
    • For example, if the doorbell rings, it may catch your dog off guard making him bark with surprise. If you ignore the bark, he gets no reward and won't bark the next time he hears the bell. But, if he barks and you shout at him to be quiet, you have accidentally rewarded the barking with attention. Now, he'll be more likely to bark the next time he hears the bell.
  4. Image titled Punish a Dog Step 4
    Do not raise your voice or hit the dog. Verbal or physical punishment is not an effective way to prevent bad behavior. Instead, your dog will simply learn to fear you. For example, hitting your dog after he urinates in the house might just cause him to hide where he urinates. He may become secretive and disappear to urinate. This won't help you, since you'll spend more time looking for soiled areas in order to clean them up.[7]
    • Your dog doesn't understand physical or verbal punishment. He'll just be confused and hurt, which will damage your relationship.
  5. Image titled Punish a Dog Step 5
    Teach bite inhibition. Biting is a bad behavior that must be controlled. Teach your dog that biting can hurt people. Do this by giving a high-pitched yelp and removing your hand when your dog nips at you. Take your hand away and stop playing for a few minutes or leave the room. Withdrawing the fun and attention is punishment in terms that your dog will understand. He'll soon associate rough playing with an end to the game and will avoid the behavior.[8]
    • Full-grown dogs that bite might be doing so because they are aggressive, and it will be more difficult to train them to stop without professional help. Consider calling your vet or an obedience trainer for insight.

Part 2
Preventing Bad Behavior

  1. Image titled Punish a Dog Step 6
    Figure out what's causing your dog's bad behavior. Remember that dogs do not misbehave out of malice. If your dog appears to misbehave, such as chewing your shoes, destroying furniture while you're out, or growling at strangers, then the dog has a reason to do so but you haven't figured out what it is yet. Spend some time figuring out why your dog is acting out.[9]
    • For example, if your dog chews the furniture when you are out, he may be doing so because he's bored or anxious at being separated from you.
  2. Image titled Punish a Dog Step 7
    Remove triggers for bad behavior. Once you've figured out what's causing your dog's bad behavior, try to remove the triggers. Maybe you've found that your dog barks when something excites him, like seeing someone walk down the street or a car drive past. To prevent barking, you might close the curtains.
    • You can also make arrangements so your dog is less likely to get caught by surprise, which can trigger a lot of bad behavior. For example, if your dog is easily started by a certain trigger, like the mailman, make sure your dog is in the backyard before the mailman comes each day.[10]
  3. Image titled Punish a Dog Step 8
    Reward good behavior. Use positive reinforcement if your dog plays nicely, responds to commands, or successfully eliminates in the right spot. Offer him treats or shower him praise like, "good dog!" in a cheerful voice. Reward the behavior immediately after the action, so your dog creates a positive association. If you reward him too soon or too late, your dog won't understand why he's getting the reward.[11]
    • You may want to keep treats with you to reward good behavior whenever you see it.
  4. Image titled Punish a Dog Step 9
    Keep your dog active. Dogs that are bored or inactive tend to bark more than well-exercised dogs. If your dog spends most of his day inside, he may just jump up, bark, or act out when he finally does get outside or when you get home. Try to let your dog get a walk or run outside for at least an hour every day. Staying active might keep your dog from behaving badly.[12]
    • Make sure the dog has plenty of chew toys. This can keep him active and occupied when he has to remain inside. It can also prevent bad behaviors, like gnawing or chewing things he shouldn't.
  5. Image titled Punish a Dog Step 10
    Establish routines. Your dog may engage in bad behaviors if he's feeling stressed or unsure of his surroundings. You can make him feel more secure and relaxed by establishing simple routines. For example, if your dog is inappropriately urinating, start by crate training him and regularly taking him outside to the same spot to urinate. If you do this at set times, he'll learn to associate urinating with the correct spot.[13]
    • You should also feed and play with your dog at regular times. This way, your dog will learn to expect attention and care. He'll be less likely to act out or try to get your attention if he knows that playtime is coming.[14]
  6. Image titled Punish a Dog Step 11
    Know when to get help. If you can't figure out what's causing your dog's bad behavior or if your dog's behavior doesn't improve, get the advice of a professional animal behaviorist or pet psychologist. You can ask your veterinarian to recommend someone who's trained, registered and approved.[15] You may also ask your vet to check the dog over for a medical condition that may be causing the bad behavior.
    • Getting a physical is especially important for older dogs. For example, your dog might have an incontinence issue due to a medical problem. Your vet will be able to diagnose and recommend further medical or behavioral treatment.[16]


  • If you're giving your dog a timeout or withdrawing attention, do not look at the dog at all or make eye contact. The dog will know that you are watching and will try to get your attention even more.
  • Instead of punishing your dog for something like urinating inappropriately, watch him for signs that he needs to go out. If he does have an accident, simply clean it up with enzymatic cleaner to remove any scent markers.[17]

Sources and Citations

  1. The Power of Positive Dog Training. Pat Miller. Publisher: Howell Book House.
  2. The Power of Positive Dog Training. Pat Miller. Publisher: Howell Book House.
  3. The Power of Positive Dog Training. Pat Miller. Publisher: Howell Book House.
Show more... (14)

Article Info

Categories: Dog Obedience