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5 Tips to Correct Bad Behavior

Visit many dog-related websites and you're sure to find ones that advocate only positive dog training. That usually means you ignore bad behavior and reward good behavior.

That’s not terrible advice but not totally realistic either. What if the bad behavior might injure someone or is about to get you arrested or evicted?

Even if it just annoys another family member, you need to correct the bad behavior.


Bad dog!

I don't know why some people have the nutty idea that 'correction' means you beat the dog or otherwise harm him.

Here are five tips to help you correct, not brutalize, your dog when he misbehaves.

1. Can you determine the reason for the misbehavior?

A dog left outside alone all day while the family is gone is likely to bark out of boredom. (See Home Alone for tips to keep him occupied.)

Or, the barking may be related to the construction workers next door, and your dog is instinctively trying to guard your property.

If you understand the cause and effect for the behavior, you may be able to reduce or eliminate the cause and correct it that way.

2. When you can't identify a reason, start with a simple correction

My first line of defense is a water spray bottle. Most dogs hate to have their faces misted with a spray of plain lukewarm water.

For example, if your dog is barking insistently, say 'quiet' and then spray him of he doesn’t stop. Note, I used 'say' not scream, become hysterical or yell at the top of your voice. Use a firm tone. Over-reacting may just over stimulate him and make the situation worse.

Use water and 'quiet' on several occasions and then go to step 3.

3. Next time give him a chance to react before correcting

After a few times of spraying with water, if he starts barking again, say 'quiet' in the same firm tone of voice. If he ignores you, then spray and say 'quiet' at the same time.

4. Increase the correction, if needed

If your dog is still barking mad, put some vinegar (one tablespoon to a quart of water) in the spray water.

If that doesn't work, buy one of those plastic lemon squeeze containers at the grocery store. When be barks, say 'quiet' and spray a shot of lemon right on his tongue. If he seems oblivious to lemon, try a shot of lime.

If he's really incorrigible, use something really unpleasant like breath spray.

5. Maintain the progression of unpleasantness

You don't start out with the worse taste. You start out with plain water. Soon your dog will realize that the corrections are getting worse (but still not injuring or harming him).

He might have toughed it out if you'd started with spray of lemon. By increasing the unpleasant taste of the spray, you've made him concerned about what might come next.

This approach might be too mild for an aggressive Akita or Chow Chow but for Toy breeds, they're successful 99.99% of time.


These techniques work on any type of bad behavior when you witness the bad behavior. It also works in reverse.

When you're training your dog, make your first reward the treat or toy he desires the least. For example, if he obeys a simple command such as 'come,' give him the basic treat or toy. If he obeys a more complex command such as 'leave it'; e.g., to a piece of food on the sidewalk, give him a treat or toy he likes more.

Coming soon, I'll offer some tips for corrections when you're not there to do it in person.

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