Giving your dog a “time-out” is a technique used to teach a dog to stop doing something

we don’t like, just like you would do with a child. Basically, the idea of the time-out is the removal of fun. We do this by removing the dog from a situation or by restricting his access to an object, person, or other dog.

What can a time-out look like?

  • Putting your dog in his crate (if he already LOVES his crate) or behind a baby gate or closed door.
  • Putting your dog on a leash or a tether.
  • Walking your dog away from the object, person, or dog he wants to get to.
  • Leaving the room yourself or stopping the game.

When to use a time-out:

  • Inappropriately playing with or greeting another dog (nipping, rough wrestling, or incessant barking)
  • Jumping on people to greet them.
  • Demand barking.
  • If your dog gets mouthy or jumpy during playtime with you.

How to use a time-out:

Pick a behavior. Decide the specific behavior that triggers a time-out, like nipping during dog-dog play.

Find the trigger. Observe your dog to figure out which behavior tends to come just before the behavior you are targeting. For example, a wild chase game always leads to nipping. This will be your signal to give your dog his warning cue.

  1. Give your warning cue. Anytime you see the signal behavior, give your warning cue (like “Easy!”). If your dog responds to the cue and dials down the behavior, praise him and allow play to continue.Tip! When you first begin this process, you may find it helpful to redirect your dog to a more appropriate choice. In this case, you could direct your dog to pick up a toy.
  2. Signal the time-out. If your dog ignores the warning cue and redirection and engages in the target behavior—in this case nipping—give your time-out cue (like “Too much!” or “Too bad”).
  3. Give the time-out. Put your dog on a leash and remove him from the room or the play area at the park. Consistency is key. For time-outs to work they must be given every time your dog engages in the target behavior, at the very second it begins.
  4. Back to play! Release your dog after 30 seconds or a couple of minutes, allowing him to come back and try again. Keeping time-outs short is imperative to their success. You may have to repeat this step several times before your dog catches onto the pattern.

Tip! Don’t be discouraged if your dog avoids you in the beginning when you give the time-out signal. This means your training is going according to plan and if you keep at it, your dog will learn that dodging you doesn’t work. This is when you will see results. He may even begin to come to you for time-outs on his own.

Troubleshooting:

If your dog is still engaging in the target behavior after, half a dozen time-outs, or he does something particularly rude, a final time-out may help to get your point across. Follow steps 1-4, but don’t give your dog another opportunity to misbehave that day. Leave the park or head home if you are out on a walk.