This page on Dog Training Basics is part of the Beginners Course of the
D.S. Dog Training Workshop, and an element of the Dog Science Network

Comprehensive Behavioral Conditioning for Dogs
Section One of the Beginner's Course

Dog Training Basics
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Body Language and the Unsettling Voice

By physically crowding your dog and, in general, displaying an aggressive body language as you punish him verbally, you can enhance the agitating effects of your unsettling voice. You can, therefore, by so doing, increase the intensity of the procedure.

The Corrective Tap

The procedure for carrying out the corrective tap consists of the following:

  1. Either while your dog is in the act of emitting the target response or immediately afterward, go to where he is. Do not call him to you.

  2. Scold your dog with your unsettling voice, as you proclaim loudly No! When punishing, never say anything other than the word no.

  3. Then, just a second or so after telling him no, lightly tap your dog on the nose with one or two fingers.

The nose chuck should be delivered lightly enough to ensure that there is no possibility that your dog might experience pain or suffer any sort of injury. Nonetheless, the tap has to be at least somewhat unpleasant, because if your dog does not mind what you are doing enough to want to avoid experiencing it again in the future, then your intervention is just not going to work as a punisher.

Your nose tap, then, should be more abrupt than simply reaching out and touching your dog. However, it should fall very far short of what any rational person would describe as brutalizing your dog. Somewhere, then, halfway between simply touching your dog and a more forceful act that might somehow hurt your dog is the sweet spot that we call tapping your dog.

The nose tap, then, should always be far below the threshold of pain, but well above what your dog can simply ignore.

The best way to determine how much force to use is to tap yourself on the nose. If you experiment on yourself, you will quickly discover that it takes almost no force whatsoever to turn a nose smack into an upsetting experience. There is just something innately upsetting about being on the receiving end of that primal act, even when it is done gently. Accordingly, it does not take much to make the procedure work.

sSo easy does it. And always remember that striking your dog with force on his nose or on any part of his head could produce brain damage that might not be apparent for months or even years to come. That is especially true of puppies, who are actually fragile little creatures, robust though they may sometimes seem.

Therefore, as with any punishment procedure, you should let your dog's reaction be your guide. Obviously, if your dog seems terrified, then, you need to tone it down. On the other hand, if he just ignores your attempt to punish, you will need to add in aggressive body language, and also, sharpen the tone of your unsettling voice.

As always, you want your punishment procedure to be just severe enough to make your dog want to steer clear of the response that brought it about. However, you do not want your dog to feel like the whole world is going to come crashing down on him if he commits a minor offense. Nonetheless, as time goes by and he gets to know the program, you do want him to conclude that behaving badly never works out well enough to make misbehavior a worthwhile endeavor. Therefore, at the very least, you need to make sure that your intervention takes all the fun out of the behavior being punished.

As is the case with the spray mist procedure, the corrective tap should always be used in combination with the unsettling voice.

Like all punishment procedures, the corrective tap should be delivered either while your dog is actually in the act of emitting the target response, or immediately afterward.

By all means, if you don't need to employ a nose tap to get results with your dog, then don't use it. After all, if you can get your dog to desist from engaging in a problematic response through the dispensation of verbal punishers alone, there is no sense in dropping in a nose chuck just for the heck of it.

On the other hand, as you will discover a little further on in this narrative, if a given punisher, like a verbal rebuke, is going to eventually succeed in eliminating the target behavior, then, you will see some significant change in the targeted response right from the very first time that the punisher is applied. So don't kid yourself. If it ain't working now, it ain't gonna work later, either.

If you can get your dog trained up with no nose tap procedures applied, then, good. In fact, that's great. But if you need it - use it - because you may find that there are some hard dogs out there who, in some circumstances, can only be reasoned with after you have gotten their attention.

When they approach their dog to deliver a corrective tap, some people find that the animal runs away at a pace that precludes the possibility of their capturing the little miscreant. However, that probably really shouldn't matter since your goal in wanting to chuck the dog in the first place was just to spoil his enjoyment of his misdeeds and make him regret what he did. Well, the fact is that if he is running away in fear from the person he loves most is almost certain to be upsetting. Therefore, you will have accomplished your goal just by forcing the rascal to flee. Hence, there should be no need to track him down.

If your dog does run away as you approach him to deliver a nose tap, then, just let him go. Do not make the enormous mistake of calling him back and, then, punishing him when he responds to your command to come back. For obvious reasons, coming when called and being punished are not two events that you ever want to see paired closely together in time.

When dealing with Pugs and other breeds with tiny noses that are set in close to their eyes, use common sense and make a careful judgment concerning the practicality of employing a nose smacking procedure with that population.

Finally, remember that you should never use any sort of punishment procedure with a dog that might conceivably bite you in response. If in doubt, check with a dog training professional in your area before proceeding.

Using Spray Mist as a Means of Punishing Your Dog

Should you so choose, in lieu of the corrective tap, you can punish your dog by spraying him in the face with a misty spritz of fresh water immediately after he misbehaves.

As a safeguard, in the event that some of the mist inadvertently gets into your dog's eyes, we recommend that you buy a new spray bottle, one that you will know has never held cleanser or any other type of chemical. You should be able to purchase a suitable spray bottle at any drug store.

Just be sure to use clean water and make certain that the dial on the spray bottle is set to spray in order to ensure a misty delivery. Take care not to use a setting that would deliver a steady stream of water that could conceivably cause an eye injury.

The idea is to do everything just as you would with a corrective tap, only instead of striking the dog, you punish forbidden behavior by spraying him in the face with a mist of water immediately after each transgression.

The major problem with the practice of spraying an errant dog is that it takes planning an preparation to ensure that you are always going to have a spray bottle within easy reach every time your dog does something that calls for an immediate corrective response.

Not surprisingly, your dog will quickly learn to differentiate between when you do and do not have a spray bottle handy, and his behavior is likely to fluctuate accordingly. For that reason, you may want to augment your spray-on-he-who-sins strategy with the occasional corrective tap, so that your dog will know that correction, in one form or another, is always sure to follow every transgression.

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This page on Dog Training Basics is part of the Beginners Course of the
D.S. Dog Training Workshop, and an element of the Dog Science Network