Time Outs; Why They Work on Your Dog
Who hasn’t used this parental trick on your kids after they have misbehaved?
I remember having a hard time becoming “potential new step mom” and walking the line between lenient and an ogre and finding that time outs work well on angry, disrespectful 6 year olds.
I would probably never put my hands on my own kids (I don’t have any genetically related) but I would NEVER, ever, ever put my hands on someone else’s kids but I was certainly tested when I entered this new relationship.
I learned to not use my hands (not really my default anyway, even though I got many a beating as a child) and to find the things that meant the most to them.
The same is true of your dog.
You know, I have a love hate relationship with calling dogs children and referring to them as such.
Dogs are dogs and they have a very different set of rules and a very different way of learning.
Yet, I find that most people can’t understand a dog’s behavior until you anthropomorphize it and put it in human or child terms.
If I can explain it to you like your dog is a 5 year old, then most people have that ah HA! moment and can finally understand.
But some things are just standard.
If you are trying to negate or punish a child, adult, or animal; find out what means the most to them and use that as a bargaining chip.
My step daughter, for her it is the computer.
My 16 year old step son, for him it is his video games.
And my oldest step son (when he was at home) for him it was his friends.
For My Dogs
For my dogs it is being with me and engaging and interacting with me.
My dogs love to train, and learn, and play but occasionally they make mistakes.
And, when they were young they made even more mistakes.
When teeth would come out, or they thought they could pounce all over me on the sofa, I taught them that that naughty behavior (I considered that naughty but it all depends on what you want in a dog) = a time out.
They would go outside, or in a crate, or even just in another room (like my bedroom) for a few minutes.
What did they want?
They wanted me to play with them!
In essence their teeth on my skin and their feet rebounding off my kidneys was a way to get me to play with them. They weren’t trying to eat me alive or hurt me.
Because if I was a dog (remember dogs are dogs and have different ideas of what is okay and standard) nipping, biting, and jumping on me would be the way that they would communicate to me that they wanted to play! This is how dogs play with each other! Ever watched dogs play at the dog park, running, running away, play bowing, pouncing, nipping and biting and running is all a way for dogs to play with each other.
And, if I yell, or chase them, or try to grab or hit at them… it might sincerely look to them like I am indeed accepting their invitation to play!
But if I immediately remove them from my presence and put them somewhere, where they are alone; they learn very quickly that the nipping and the jumping doesn’t get them what they want. In fact they learn that their behavior equals the opposite of what they want.
And, it doesn’t take long!
For kids time outs seem like an eternity with crying and fit throwing and testing.
But for dogs, just a minute or less can be effective.
That is not to say that there are not dogs out there that throw fits! Some of THE best fits in the history of fits I have seen come from a dog! But for the most part dogs are more simple and less apt to throw a fit!
In essence you just need to change their mindset and make them feel like they have lost something they wanted.
I still use this technique if I take a dog out to train and he/she doesn’t listen… they come back inside for a time out.
The exception to this rule is if you haven’t met your dog’s exercise, physical, and mental needs.
If your dog is wound up tight and you haven’t had a chance to train with him and play with him all day, and especially if he is young chances are a “time out” isn’t going to work miracles!
You are going to bring him out of the room and he is still going to want to force you to play, even if that means being really naughty. Any way he can to get you to engage with him, even if it means you are chasing and swearing at him!
I honestly ask myself “Did I do everything today to make sure his needs were met?”
And, if I can answer honestly, yes, then I don’t worry about my time out.
If I have to admit I haven’t exercised him (maybe it was cold, or I was sick) then directly after he earns his time out (he should still get a time out for bad behavior), I do whatever I have to to make sure that his exercise and mental needs are met.
So, I take him for a walk, or a run, or play a game of retrieve with him, climb agility obstacles until he is exhausted.
An exhausted dog is much less likely to jump up and bite you, than one that is full of energy.
I also got in the habit of telling myself every time my dog did something naughty, he was truly yearning for some obedience.
So I would work on obedience and tricks, and after a few short weeks I had a very well behaved dog that I could divert with a command (instead of a time out) or a trick to keep the bad behavior from showing up.
The truth is
The truth is if you make time for your dog, for exercise and training then he is less likely to misbehave.
Surely you should be able to devote 20 minute or more to exercise and training each day (some may need a few times a day).
And, when he does misbehave if you take away the thing that he wants the most (YOU) then he will learn more respectful behavior.
But as with anything training and dog ownership takes time, consistency and commitment!