What to Do When Your Dog is Out of Control

We have almost all been there. You’re cute pooch is jumping on everything…you, the furniture, your guests. You tell her, “No,” “Off,” or “Down.” Nothing works. It seems as if she didn’t even hear you or is completely ignoring you. This is one of the reasons dogs are surrendered to a shelter.

Most of us tend to think of our dogs like our children. We teach them what is right and wrong. When they do wrong, your first instinct may be to scold them. When they do right, we sometimes forget to give them praise. This is normal, but it doesn’t actually tell your dog what type of behavior you’re looking for.

Today we detail 2 methods of general behavior modification. These simple yet effective tools will help you control unwanted behaviors and reinforce good ones.

Positive Reinforcement

Praise reinforces good behavior. It encourages good behavior in the future, because it becomes associated with something positive. In the dog training world we refer to this as “Positive Reinforcement.” Here are the guidelines for Positive Reinforcement:

  1. The Positive Reinforcement (Reward) must be given immediately following the “good” behavior – within a few seconds. Using a Clicker will help mark the desired behavior immediately.
  2. Waiting too long to reward may inadvertently mark an undesired behavior. If you miss the opportunity (even by those few seconds) continue with the training and praise at the next good behavior.

Distract (Positive Reinforcement)

Have you ever had a song that you can’t get out of your head? You may not even like the song, but you can’t help singing it over and over again! You can get the song out of your head if you start thinking about something else. When you are free from distractions later the song may re-enter your mind and the same thing happens again. Some behaviors in dogs are very much the same.

Example: Your dog barks obsessively and you can’t seem to get her to stop. Try distracting her with her favorite toy or bone. Giving her something more rewarding will get her mind off the barking, breaking the trance and letting her know that there is something else more rewarding than that behavior. It is also important to praise her when she chews the bone instead of barking.

Negative Punishment

Wow! This sounds horrid! It’s not what it seems. Let’s break it down. In [Negative Punishment], we are removing something that is desired. In dog training, “negative” means “remove” instead of “bad.”

Example: Your dog is tearing up a toy. You take it away from her until she can play with it correctly. In this case, Negative Punishment would be that you have removed the toy and it is something she likes to play with.

Ignore (Negative Punishment)

If you watch multiple dogs interact with each other, you may notice that when one dog is behaving inappropriately one or more of the dogs may turn and walk away. It’s the dog’s way of saying, “I don’t like your behavior.” This is an excellent way to tell your dog, in her language, that her behavior is inappropriate.

You can ignore your dog’s behavior by:

  • Standing perfectly still and not looking at her until she calms down (jumping or over-excited).
  • Turning away from your dog until the behavior subsides. (jumping)
  • Going about your business until she settles down. (When you come home from work to an over-excited, jumping dog.)

*When your dog is acting appropriately, be sure to give her praise and, if appropriate, a reward. When working with an over-excited dog, remember to keep your voice low since excitement will re-ignite her.


In dog training, consistency is the key. You must intervene in unwanted behaviors every time. If you allow a behavior sometimes and not others, your dog will not understand that it is never appropriate. They will be confused about when it is ok and when it’s not. Consistency applies to all aspects of dog training. You must be clear in your expectations and follow through with them each and every time. Get every family member on board too. It’s important that everyone follows the same rules so that your dog will be perfectly trained.

If you have any questions about behavior modification or would like to schedule a consultation, call or contact me today at 762-218-3708. We currently serve the Evans/Grovetown area.


*NOTE:  If your dog is unresponsive to these techniques or you don’t feel comfortable implementing them, contact a trainer who is familiar with behavior modification in dogs. Do NOT attempt to do anything that will jeopardize your safety.


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