If I could use just one dog training technique apart from clicker training, I would choose “time-out”. It can be used to correct so many behaviours: inappropriate barking, jumping, aggression… Although it clearly shows the dog that his behaviour is not acceptable, it is quite gentle and does not involve physical force. As my readers know, I will never recommend using physical force for correction, because it leads to aggression and damages the relationship between the dog and the owner.
“Time-out” is a very simple technique that even a child can use. It is a type of negative punishment, which means that you punish behaviour by removing something. In this case, you will remove one of the things your dog values most (besides food, of course!): your attention. You will need a light 5 ft. /1.5 m leash and a designated space. The designated space should be isolated from the rest of the house, and you should be able to physically prevent your dog from leaving it. Let’s try.
1. Attach the leash to your dog’s collar and just let it hang loose. Your dog will get used to it very soon. When Milo wears a leash at home, we call it a “tie” 🙂
2. After a couple of days, when your dog became used to the leash and would not associate anything that happens with it, you can start using “time-outs”. Let’s say you want to teach your dog not to bark, when he sees people outside your house.
3. Every time, when your dog starts barking, grab the leash and guide the dog to your designated “time-out” space. Display no emotion, don’t say anything – just stay calm. Remember, you are not punishing the dog for a crime. Instead, you are teaching your dog that this behaviour is inappropriate. So, there is no need to be mad. Your dog is not doing it to spite you; he just does not know that you do not like it.
4. Tie the leash to a door handle or take some other measures to make your dog stays there.
5. Once you have secured the dog (giving him a reasonable range of movement: you are not trying to make him physically uncomfortable), just leave.
6. Wait until your dog has calmed down, which means he is not making any annoying sounds. It can take five, ten or even fifteen minutes.
7. You may now praise your dog and let him go.
At first, you may need to repeat it several times in a row or wait a while before your dog calms down. When he will get the idea of “bad behaviour” equals “time alone” and learns to control himself, the process will take less and less time. If your dog has persistent problems with aggression, barking, guarding and other seemingly uncontrollable and unpredictable things, I would recommend keeping his leash on for months, until the problem is gone.
In addition to negative punishment effect when the dog learns the “behaviour leads to consequences” idea, “time-out” teaches the dog to relax on its own. In absence of too many stimuli, the dog will eventually calm down and will be able to control his emotions. In addition, your dog is likely to sit down while waiting, which in itself has calming effect. So, whenever your dog show shows lack of emotional control or just does not behave in the way you want it too, use the “time-out” technique to explain your expectations to the dog and to help him with self-control.
Read more about relaxation here.