To some this may sound silly. A time-out? Really? What if I told you that this is a punishment method that you can have a lot of success with? What if I told you that you could take all human emotions out of punishment and still have success?
Punishment by definition is something that decreases the frequency of a behavior. There are two ways to punish a dog. You can add something that the dog doesn’t like, or you can take away something that the dog does like. Here is an example of how to take away something the dog does like: A guest arrives at your house and your dog is jumping all over them. Instead of adding something aversive, we can take the dog away from what it wants, which in this case is the person. Enter a time-out.
My time-out consists of this: Dog does a behavior, e.g. jumping on person, I say my verbal marker that the behavior is incorrect which for me is “no.” I then give the dog one more chance to make a decision. If the dog makes the incorrect decision I say “too bad” followed by the dog being brought away from the human. I set the timer (imaginary) for a minute or two and then allow the dog to try again. Once the time is up I let him try to meet the person. There is a very good chance he will make the incorrect decision because this takes more than one repetition in most cases. If he makes the incorrect decision I repeat the process, if he makes the correct decision, which is not jumping, I ask the guest to praise and reward the dog. (Ultimately focusing on teaching the dog what the correct thing to do is better than focusing on punishment. This is just an example of how to use a time-out for your dog.)
A few keys to having success with using a time-out system include timing, consistency, and letting the dog know what the correct thing to do is. Your job is basically to be a coach. Timing and consistency is key because in order for this to be effective the dog has to realize that every time it jumps on someone, it gets removed from what it likes, which in this case is the human. If half the time the dog is allowed to jump, and the other half of the time he is punished for jumping, the dog will never figure it out, because you are doing a poor job of coaching.
Once again, in most cases, reinforcing the behavior you do want is far more effective than punishing. The point of this article is to show how you can use negative punishment to your advantage for those tricky situations.
Kevin is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT.org) and is a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator through the American Kennel Club. He currently resides in Ohio with his dog, V, a six-year-old Shepherd/Lab mix, where he operates All Dogs Go To Kevin, LLC, specializing in helping build positive relationships between humans and their canine companions using clear communication, not pain and fear. For more training tips and tricks, and to meet his amazing dog, V, follow him on Facebook by clicking here.