How to Retrain a Dog

Three Methods:Preparing to Retrain a DogEnsuring Training SuccessDealing with Difficulties

Over time a dog may pick up bad habits despite prior proper training. Or your dog may not have had proper training, so you will need to retrain him. Dogs can be retrained at any age, but it is a good idea to take your dog for a thorough check-up first to rule out any health problems. As long as your dog is healthy and able, you can retrain him by using persistence, patience, and rewards like treats and praise.

Method 1
Preparing to Retrain a Dog

  1. Image titled Detect Diabetes in Dogs Step 1
    Take your dog for a check-up. Health problems can cause a dog to change behavior and even forget how to respond to commands.[1] Take your dog to a veterinarian for a check-up dog to see if your dog is ill and requires treatment. Some conditions are inexpensive and easy to treat or control, but other problems may not be treatable. In some cases, you may need to adjust to your dog’s new behavior. Conditions that may include:
    • Urinary tract infections and diabetes. These conditions may cause a lapse in housetraining.
    • Cognitive dysfunction. This condition affects elderly dogs, causing them to forget what they are supposed to do due to brain changes.[2]
    • Arthritis or other physical problems. These conditions make it painful, difficult or impossible to do things like sit, lay down, jump up, climb stairs, etc.
  2. Image titled Train a Dog to Come Step 9
    Develop a commanding presence. Dogs use body language to communicate with other dogs and they can also read body language in humans. Some dogs will take advantage of less confident people and learn to manipulate situations to their advantage. For example, if the person giving commands is not confident, some dogs won’t obey the commands even though they know the commands.
    • To appear more confident when giving commands, stand tall with your shoulders back and use a firm voice give the command.
    • If your dog does not listen to you, then repeat the command until he complies. Make sure that your reward him after he complies, but do not reward him if he does not comply.
  3. Image titled Teach Your Dog to Speak Step 1
    Keep treats on hand at all times. It is important to reward positive behavior right away so that your dog makes the connection between his behavior and the reward. Carry a small plastic bag filled with small slivers of cheese or tiny cubes of cooked chicken so that your will always be equipped to immediately reward positive behavior.[3]
  4. Image titled Set Up a Safe, Secure Space for Toddlers Step 2
    Find ways to deter your dog. Some types of behavior may require deterrents to prevent your dog from doing serious damage to your home and belongings. If your dog’s behavior is destructive, such as chewing furniture or clawing rugs, then you can use chemical deterrents like Bitter Apple spray. Make sure that you test an inconspicuous spot first to make sure it doesn’t damage the item.[4]
    • Another option is to block your dog’s access to areas of your home where he behaves in a destructive manner. For example, you can use baby gates to prevent your dog from going into the living room.
  5. Image titled Train a Dog Step 2
    Enroll your dog in an obedience course. Dog obedience courses can help you as you retrain your dog and may also serve as a source of support. You can get to know other dog owners and learn from their experiences. Having a community of people who are also working on retraining their dogs may also help to motivate you to keep working with your dog, which can be frustrating sometimes.

Method 2
Ensuring Training Success

  1. Image titled Train a German Shepherd Step 1
    Start with basic commands. When retraining your dog, the best place to start is with basic commands such as sit, stay, and lay down. These commands are easy to teach and they act as a strong foundation for more advanced commands. After your dog has mastered these commands, then you can move on to more advanced commands.
    • When giving commands, make sure that you keep them short and simple. One or two word commands like “sit,” “stay,” “off,” “heel,” “leave it,” and “watch me” are ideal.[5]
  2. Image titled Teach Your Dog to Speak Step 13
    Use positive reinforcement to retrain your dog. Dogs respond better to rewards than they do to punishment. Make sure that you use positive reinforcement, such as treats and praise, to get your dog to comply with your commands. [6] For example, if your dog complies with your command to “sit,” then give him a treat and some praise right away.
    • Make sure that you reward positive behavior only. Never reward your dog with praise, attention, or food if he is displaying negative or unwanted behavior.[7]
    • If your dog behaves badly, then give a stern “no” and attempt to give the command again.
  3. Image titled Train a Dog Step 4
    Train every day and keep sessions short. Dogs do not have long attention spans, so it is best to keep training session short and regular. [8] Aim for two 5-10 minute sessions per day. For example, you might train your dog for 5-10 minutes in the morning and 5-10 minutes in the evening.
  4. Image titled Train a Dog Step 15
    End on a positive note. To keep your dog motivated to keep learning, you should always end training sessions on a positive note. If your dog starts to lose interest or does not understand a command, then give him a command that he has already mastered, such as “sit.” Then, praise and reward him for sitting and end the session.
  5. Image titled Become a Dog Trainer Step 5
    Seek help from a certified professional dog trainer if necessary. In some cases, retraining a dog may require professional assistance. In these cases, you may need to seek the help of a certified professional dog trainer. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation to find a certified professional dog trainer in your area.

Method 3
Dealing with Difficulties

  1. Image titled House Train a Puppy Step 1
    Find ways to deal with accidents in the house. If your dog often urinates or defecates indoors, then there might be several reasons why. In some cases, dogs may lose control of their bladder or bowels due to age or cognitive issues. Problems may also be due to having to wait too long to go outside. This behavior may also be a territorial response in unneutered males. Try to determine the cause of your dog’s elimination issues and work on a solution.[9]
    • If your dog is having trouble making it outside due to age or physical condition, try creating an emergency spot inside the house. For example, you can place a couple of absorbent puppy pads near where your dog spends most of his time just in case he has to go in a hurry.
    • If you often spend long hours away from home, consider asking a friend or neighbor to let your dog outside or hire a dog walker to take your dog for a midday walk.
    • If your dog is not neutered and you think his urination might be territorial, then talk to your veterinarian about getting him neutered.
  2. Image titled Prepare Your Pets for Disaster Step 4Bullet4
    Use a muzzle to protect yourself and others from an aggressive dog. If your dog is aggressive, then it is crucial for you to protect yourself and others around your dog by placing a muzzle on him. When used properly, muzzles do not hurt dogs and they can prevent an aggressive dog from wounding or even killing a person or animal.
    • Head halters are also a good option for keeping aggressive dogs under control.[10] A head halter is like a muzzle that you can attach a leash to.
  3. Image titled Teach Your Dog to Speak Step 12
    Teach your dog to be quiet on cue if he barks or howls too much. Teaching your dog the “quiet” command can be an effective way to deal with a dog that has vocalization issues. If your dog often barks or howls, then you can teach him to stop doing this by rewarding him when he is silent.[11]
    • To teach the quiet command, wait for your dog to be silent and then offer him some praise and a treat. Then, each time that he is quiet, reward him with praise and a treat and repeat the word “quiet.” Over time, your dog will learn that the word “quiet” means that he should be quiet and he will get a treat.
  4. Image titled Train a Dog Step 1
    Keep in mind that retraining may not be helpful or possible. Not all dogs can be retrained. If your dog is old or if he has cognitive issues, then he may not be able to change his ways. Do your best to be patient with him. If you are not able to care for your dog, then you may want to consider seeking a new home for him.


  • Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise each day. A bored dog can develop bad habits.


  • It may take weeks or even months to correct undesirable behaviors. Try to be patient and keep working with your dog to retrain him. If you find yourself frustrated or feel that what you are not making any progress, consult a veterinary behavior expert for advice.

Article Info

Categories: Dog Obedience