Most people are familiar with time-outs for children, but for dogs? Unbeknownst to many pet parents, this method of training can be an effective and gentle way to help your dog learn good behavior.
Why Use Time-Outs?
When you are training a new dog or a puppy, it is likely that you will run into undesirable behavior such as digging, chewing or barking. Time-outs work by interrupting this behavior repeatedly, which has the potential to put an end to the conduct quickly and easily.
How to Use a Time-Out
Decide where the time-out will take place: The room should be devoid of toys or other entertainment and should be safe and secluded. Bathrooms are often a great option. Regardless of which room you choose to use, it is important that the time-out take place in this location every time.
Decide which behavior is worthy of a time-out: A time-out is not the best way to treat all misbehavior. While time-outs are especially effective for attention-seeking behaviors like barking, mouthing, jumping up or digging, they may not work for more deeply rooted issues like aggression or fear-based problems. That said, decide which behaviors you will issue time-outs for and then be consistent.
Give a warning: The next time your dog misbehaves, give her a warning by saying something like “no” before you issue the time-out. If she stops the behavior, provide ample praise and positive reinforcement.
Issue the time out: If the dog does not respond to the word “no,” it’s time for a time-out. Look at the dog and say, “time out” before gently but firmly taking hold of the dog and leading her to the time-out location. Shut the door calmly and leave the dog alone for five minutes.
Release the dog: After five minutes, release the dog from the time-out room. Keep in mind that you should only release the dog when she is calm. If the dog is not calm, walk away until she is.
While time-outs are an effective tool for decreasing unwanted behavior, they take some time to begin working well. Expect to place your dog in time-out at least 5 or 6 times before she begins to connect the time-out with the behavior. After this point, the behavior should begin to subside.
Additionally, ensure that, when issuing time-outs, you stay very calm. Time-outs are not punishment quite so much as they are a form of discipline that works by depriving the dog of attention surrounding unwanted behaviors. By staying calm, you show the dog that the behavior is unacceptable without scaring or harming her.
With some patience and dedication, time-outs can be a great way for pet parents to put an end gently to unwanted behaviors in their dogs.
Content reviewed by a veterinarian.