How to Teach a Naughty Dog

by Simon Foden Google
    Timing is everything when teaching naugty dogs. Never correct dogs retrospectively.

    Timing is everything when teaching naugty dogs. Never correct dogs retrospectively.

    Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    What constitutes “naughty” varies from person to person; some people love their dogs to climb into bed with them, others see this as totally unacceptable. It’s important that you set your own boundaries and reinforce them with kindness, patience and positivity. Dogs don’t do things to annoy you; if your dog is disobeying or acting out, it’s most likely that he simply doesn’t understand what you want him to do. Consistency and clarity are key to showing your dog the error of his ways.

    Step 1

    Check for health problems. If you perceive your dog’s constant soiling of the house or ignoring your commands as naughty, you may be missing a medical problem. A dog who is otherwise trained but refuses to be house-trained may have a bladder infection or stomach upset preventing him from getting outside in time. A dog who constantly ignores your calls may be going deaf. A quick visit to the vet should hopefully rule out any health concerns so you can get on with “dog school.”

    Step 2

    Find out your dog’s “currency.” Some dogs will do anything for a dollop of peanut butter, others will be putty in your hands if they think you’re going to give them that ball. Observe your dog at play and figure out what motivates him.

    Step 3

    Remove temptation. Dogs are habitual. If Lucky is fond of destroying your shoes, the first thing you should do is put all shoes away. It won’t solve the underlying problem, but it will reduce the amount of stress in the household. Making it easy for a dog to do the right thing is a great shortcut to good behavior.

    Step 4

    Observe your dog discreetly. Prevention is more effective than cure when it comes to canine naughtiness. By understanding your dog’s routine and habits, you can be on hand in a timely fashion to react to the bad behavior.

    Step 5

    Distract your dog. Clap your hands or call his name when you think he’s about to do something naughty. Once he’s focused on you, issue verbal praise. Disrupting behavior patterns is an effective way of curbing naughtiness, such as nuisance barking.

    Step 6

    Use negative punishment and positive reinforcement. Parents are familiar with both of these psychological concepts, but maybe not by name. “Stevie, that was rude. No TV for you!” Giving a positive stimulus for good behavior then taking it away helps show dogs (and children) how their behavior influences their own environment. “Suzy, great job on the chores. Have a cookie.” Here you’re introducing a positive stimulus as a result of desired behavior. So if Lucky sits when asked, pay him promptly in his preferred currency. If you want to discourage bad behavior, remove the positive stimulus.

    Step 7

    Keep a supply of treats in your pocket. Every day is a school day when you have a naughty dog. If you spot Lucky planning to do something wrong, issue the distraction. Once he’s looking at you, call his name. If he comes, give a treat. He won’t always come, but each time he does, your reward takes him a step closer to mastering the recall command, the most important command for any dog.

    An Item You Will Need

    • Treats


    • Time rewards so they occur as close to the required behavior as possible. It's no good saying "good boy" 30 seconds after he does something you want.
    • Never correct retrospectively. If you discover Lucky next to a pile of chewed up letters, you've missed your opportunity to react. He won't know why you're saying "no!"
    • Keep training sessions brief.

    Photo Credits

    • Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for

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