Solving dog behavior problems without punishment

When a dog has a behavior problem, the first impulse can be to solve the problem with punishment. According to LIMA, however, (Least Invasive, Minimally Adversive, publicized by Karen Pryor), punishment is virtually never required because there are many other methods to change behavior (that do not cause side effects such as fear and aggression).

These problems can be solved by maintenance (first choice) and positive reinforcement (second choice).

Note: Many of these solutions require that you previously train Sit-Stay (with distractions) before the problem happens.

Barking at visitors

  • Before answering the door, cue the dog to do a “sit-stay” or a "down-stay" (or cue the dog to go to their mat).
  • Reward the dog with treats.
  • Also,  give the visitor plenty of treats to give to your dog (when they are quiet and sitting). 

Jumping on guests

  • Before greeting someone, cue your dog to sit.
  • Reward the dog with treats.
  • Guests should ignore your dog until they have all four paws on the ground or are sitting.
  • If your dog jumps up, guests should turn their backs and leave.

Sitting on furniture

  • Ask them to get off (then cue a sit-stay and reward them with a treat).

Pushing through doors

  • Before going out the door, put on your dog’s leash.
  • Cue dog to sit-stay (and reward them).
  • Only release the dog from the sit-stay when you both are ready to do so. 

Stealing off countertops

  • Use maintenance by removing anything edible on the countertop (unless you are around to supervise).
  • While you are cooking dinner or eating dinner, have your dog doing "mat" or staying in their crate.

Chewing shoes and other valuables.

  • First - do maintenance: Put away the things you don't want chewed up.
  • Replace the item that the dog is chewing on with a higher value toy (also, give them a high-value treat like Squeeze Cheese).

Seeking attention

  • Ignore them (in other words,  don't reward the behavior). 
  • When they stop annoying you, give them something to do (like chew a bone).

Digging up the yard

  • You "can't take the dig out of the dog." Set aside a small “digging allowed” area and encourage them to dig there.


  • This behavior tends to come from fear. Find a trainer who will teach you the "Look at That" game (invented by Leslie McDevitt). It's tricky to do, but a trainer can teach you how.


  • To avoid fearfulness dog should have met 5 strangers a day when aged 8 weeks until 12 weeks, visited many floor surfaces, and been cued to come to dinner by banging pots and pans (per Dr. Ian Dunbar). If the dog is fearful because they did not get proper socialization as a puppy, find a trainer who will teach you the "Look at That" game (invented by Leslie McDevitt). It's tricky to do, but a trainer can teach you how.

Meeting other dogs

  • #1 tip: Don't have dogs meet while leashed when casually meeting on the sidewalk. Dogs often get aggressive when they meet while leashed.
  • If your dog must meet another dog, take both dogs for a walk (separately). Then when they are both tired, walk them together (one person per leashed dog).