5 Ways to Effectively Shut Down Your Dog

Let’s just mention that shutting down a dog isn’t a good thing.  Have you ever felt completely shut down?  Like you can’t be who you are, or that the things you have tried are simply not working at all?

I hear from a lot of frustrated people who are having a difficult time teaching their dog a new behavior.  Especially a behavior that the dog has to want to do; like eye contact and focus, or putting his head down on command, or doing agility.

Dogs that “shut down” are dogs that walk away, lay down, ignore their owners and show no desire to show a new or existing behavior.

These dogs often show appeasement behaviors like staring at walls, looking away, or smiling because they don’t know what else to do, but they also don’t want to get into trouble.

And, I don’t think that people realize that THEY are the ones that are shutting their dogs down.

Sometimes this shutting down is due to how the dog was formerly trained or how the dog is currently trained.

Unfortunately previous bad training techniques can affect how willing a dog is to learn new behaviors.

So Let’s Get Started

5.  Over Correcting

This says it all!  Thanks the cross over trainer for the photo

This says it all! Thanks the cross over trainer for the photo

Frequently people are taught how to issue “leash corrections” when the dog is young and learning and the owner issues a command that the dog doesn’t follow or doesn’t follow fast enough.

Unfortunately some of these “leash corrections” are also used to teach the dog or the puppy.

Tell the puppy to sit, and if he doesn’t, pull up on the leash until the puppy’s butt hits the ground.  In some cases the puppy doesn’t even know what “sit” means… so he hears a “command” or a cue from his owner and then he is yanked and choked into position.

This is not a positive way to learn and also it is not conducive to future learning!

Essentially for some dogs they wait for the owner to give a command and then prepare to be physically forced and manipulated into position.

To these dogs this is what “learning” is and if they do the wrong thing or make the wrong choice or don’t respond quickly enough they are “corrected” into position.

Put yourself in this dog’s paws and you will quickly understand how these practices would shut you down to learning and trying new things.

And, if you have trained this way in the past, it will take twice as much, if not more effort, to teach your dog a new and positive way of learning!

4.  Yell

Thanks Fearful Dogs for the photo

Thanks Fearful Dogs for the photo

Another effective way to shut down a dog; especially an emotionally soft dog is to yell a lot!

Yelling often goes with anger, and most people have yelled at their dog once or twice… or perhaps more often.

I would like to say that I am exempt, however I am sure I have yelled on occasion.

Some dogs don’t care, you could yell until your blue (just another reason NOT to yell, because it is either going to traumatize your dog or he is probably going to just ignore you anyway.) but some dogs are very sensitive.

Let’s face it, getting angry and yelling is not good for your health either!

If you find yourself getting angry at your dog, I suggest you breathe deeply, reorient your mind; ask yourself WHY you are angry and try to find a more effective way of communication.  After all, no one likes being yelled at.

And, some people actually yell commands when they train.

I, personally, like to whisper my commands or use a very soft voice.  I don’t want my dog to have to rely on very loud commands because sometimes I am on the phone or speaking to someone else, and quiet commands also help me when I compete.

Although many people do it, I don’t like yelling a command for everyone to hear.  I prefer to be the only one around who knows my dog didn’t respond to a command and if I am quiet enough I can reissue it with no one the wiser.

This One Time…

I remember one time I was in the agility ring, and agility is a bit difficult for me.  I am used to telling a dog what he is doing or giving a command directly prior to the behavior.

In agility, you must tell your dog what to do WAY before he gets to the next jump or contact.

My dog started to veer off course, I panicked and yelled HERE.  My dog literally stopped dead in her tracks and looked at me as if to say, “Why are you yelling?  I am doing my best and exactly what you told me”.  I knew it was my fault.  I surprised her and shut her down.  She then didn’t want to perform.

I don’t yell in the ring anymore ;)! I am very aware of my vocal level and do my best not to panic.

3.  Get Easily Stressed

Dogs Don't Understand Our Stress but They Try to Appease Us

Dogs Don’t Understand Our Stress but They Try to Appease Us

As mentioned previously, our own stress can cause our dogs to panic and wonder what is wrong.

If dog training fills you with stress, your dog will wonder what is wrong.

Dogs pay very close attention to our body language and everything we do.  They learn that our smiling means we are happy, and that in fact we are not snarling at them and plotting their demise; after all dogs don’t usually smile at one another in happiness!

They learn when we are angry, irritated, sick, sad, happy and even uncomfortable or stressed.

And, if you are regularly stressed when you train, your dog will wonder what is wrong and he won’t enjoy the process.

These dogs would rather shut down in an attempt to get you to stop and ease your stress than continue working while you are stressed.

It’s not exactly fun to be around someone who is continually complaining or stressed about something.

Now we all have our bad days, but I suggest you avoid dog training on these days so that training is fun and not stressful.

2.  Never Allow New BehaviorsHappy-dog

When I am teaching my dogs a new behavior I allow them to make all kinds of mistakes.

I don’t care if he or she tries a dozen different behaviors in an attempt to be rewarded.

My only rule is that the dog doesn’t put his or her teeth on my skin, that is the only misbehavior that I will correct.

If my dog runs through all his or her tricks, I don’t care; I either wait him out or help him to perform the behavior I want.

But many people aren’t patient.

If the dog doesn’t by miracle pick the behavior intended, the owner corrects, gets irritated or frustrated, or is short tempered with the dog.

This keeps these dogs from trying new behaviors.

When I was teaching Service Dogs, we often had to wait and wait and wait for the dog to do the right thing.  Often we would chain the behaviors together so that the dog could be more quickly rewarded.

1.  You Don’t Reward Soon Enough or Often Enough

Many times people simply don’t reward fast enough or often enough.

Thanks icanhasinternets.com for the photo

Thanks icanhasinternets.com for the photo

Let’s face it, if you are to learn something new, it is important to know you are doing it right or at least on the right track.

If no one helps you with your learning, and expects you to know if you are right or wrong; you might get frustrated and give up too.

I am about to teach myself how to put a new engine in an old truck, I need someone to help me with this process and if I don’t have help I’ll have to pay to have it put in; figuring it out on my own, alone would be too frustrating.

So if your dog is shutting down on you and you don’t fit into any of the other categories, perhaps you aren’t rewarding fast enough or often enough and your dog simply doesn’t know what to do.

If you expect your dog to learn a complicated behavior, he may need to learn step by step instead of waiting for him to perform the whole behavior.

For Example

If I am teaching a Service Dog to turn on a light, I don’t wait for him to go over, jump on the wall and perform the behavior in and of itself; that is kind of a ridiculous idea if you think about it in those terms.

I’ve never seen a dog simply offer this behavior.

Instead, I reward my dog for looking at the light switch, then for jumping on the wall, then for touching the light switch, etc.  And, this may be a several week process before your dog understand the whole behavior in its entirety.

The KEYhappy-dog

The key to keeping your dog stimulated is making it fun!

Keep it fun, keep it rewarding and keep it attainable!

I reward often and play even more often.

My dogs work because they think “training” is “playing” and if you tried to convince them otherwise they would laugh in your face.

I allow them to make mistakes and often encourage it, because to me the willingness to be wrong shows me that they are comfortable learning and willing to go above and beyond to get me to engage and play with them!

And, the more fun training is for both of you the more often you will make time to train!

If it’s fun, it will never seem like work!

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  1. Fiona says:

    My dog is paper trained and is perfect at home. However, when we go to other people’s houses she runs around marking and refuses to use the paper. how can I change this behavior?


    Minette Reply:

    Of course! She knows your house and where things are at but doesn’t know another.

    Keep your dog on leash in other people’s homes until she has learned the rules.

    I also think paper confuses dogs and causes them to pee inappropriately. I only recommend the grass indoor potty places for indoor potty use.


    fiona Reply:

    How do I teach he the rules>


    Minette Reply:

    Keep her on a leash and teach her. You will likely have to go back to step one like you did when she was a puppy at your house.

    I travel often and I usually have a dog or 3 because I compete in dog sports.

    I never enter anyone’s home without my dogs on leash. And, they stay on a leash until I know they won’t have accidents or chase the cat or do anything else naughty.

    I have had to keep my dogs on leash for many trips before letting them off leash. This way they didn’t adopt bad behaviors at a friend’s house.

    My friends are thrilled to have me visit because my dogs are well behaved, on a leash, or in a crate.

    Sam Reply:

    My australian cobberdog was not paper trained. I also think that confuses the puppies as they think it’s ok to toilet in the house. Paper training is a big mistake. It is faster to toilet train without it. But it’s too late for that now. So you’ll have to start from scratch. My first three pups were paper trained and took months to fully house train. My dobber dog pup took three weeks and I can’t count on one hand how many accidents she had in the house. I’m not joking! She’s four months now and hasn’t had a mistake in the house since she was eleven weeks old. And she never pooed in my house once. I don’t know how old your dog is but I suggest going back to training like a new pup. Take them out every five to ten minutes. We used to say: “go toilet,” and treat when she did. Now when I’m going out I take her outside and give the command and she goes toilet on command before I leave her locked in the house. The trick is to avoid accidents. The less accidents they have in the house the less likely they are to associate your floor with toiletting. Crate the dog if you can’t be with them so they won’t have accidents. The rest of the time watch them all the time. If they sniff the floor take them out. If they start to do something, make a loud noise to surprise them mid poo or mid pee and grab them (never hit them) and whisk them outside and tell them to go toilet. Don’t let them in until they do something. Praise them up when they do! It’s hard work and time consuming but you must take them out frequently. Once they off paper toilet ting you can teach them the same in other people’s homes. My dog only had one accident in two different homes and I told her: “no,” and whisked her out. My previous pups were done with the old fashioned “rub noses in it,” and smack them. We didn’t know any better! This dog has never been smacked. Never yelled at though we use a louder firmer “no,” so she gets the message. She’s proof you don’t need to hit or yell at your dog. You probably know this already. But the key is take them outside frequently and g to them to do it right and praise them rather than allow accidents – they will happen but it’s your job to make them as few as possible and help the dog succeed.

    Minette Reply:

    I would say these are two very different behaviors.

    pooping at someone else’s house is normal because they don’t know the routine or where the doors are and what the expectations are…

    As far as the rain goes that to me is more of a phobic response. I would either crate her while you are gone on days that rain, or make sure you take her out every two hours or so and make sure she doesn’t have run of the house without you.

    And, read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/nix-dealt-fourth-july-thunderstorms/

    Michael Peer Reply:

    I’m surprised you would recommend any indoor systems. Either in or out. I choose out only, positively rewarded of course.


    Minette Reply:

    I agree and I believe in outside only. However some people live in apartments and have little dogs and are gone a long portion of the day.

    If you are gone the majority of the day then your dog has to go somewhere, and when that is the case the indoor grass can help make it easier for a dog to understand and not potty on towels or clothes etc.

  2. James Bates says:

    I still have not been able to find the training that I paid for. I work Tuesday evenings, but I thought I could find it later? ? ?


    Minette Reply:

    James, I am not in charge of the money things 😉 but if you email Dana at customer service at info@thedogtrainingsecret.com she will be able to help you


  3. Linda Coontz says:

    Thank you for these helpful reminders. It is very easy to slide into impatience.


  4. Chuck Wiegand says:

    Thanks for your teaching with the great attitude you project. We have a dog & cockatoo that respond wonderfully with a gentile correction. The cockatoo is a bit stubborn but responds with great results. Sometimes at his own pace.


  5. Ken Kralick says:

    Your 5 steps all work very well when used as you explained.I am working on giving commands in a low or quite voice rather than a loud voice. My dog Zoe seems to respond better to the low voice.

    Ken Kralick

    PS If you need dog type items with your name and information on them I can supply them.Try me, the quality and price is right


  6. denni says:

    I love your articles. Thank you so much!!


    Minette Reply:

    Thank you so much for saying that! I love writing and I like knowing that others are learning and enjoying what I write 🙂


  7. Lee says:

    This was very helpful! You mention under #2, My only rule is that the dog doesn’t put his or her teeth on my skin, that is the only misbehavior that I will correct. How do you correct this? I’ve got a 9 month old JRT who is mouthy – she loves to gently chew on fingers and whatever else she desires at the moment. I’ve got very thin skin (sun damage) and her teeth can tear my skin easily. She’s not trying to hurt me but I’ve got to teach her not to do this for both of our sake. Thanks


    Minette Reply:

    Mostly time outs… look for that article to be posted soon!!!

    also read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/land-shark/


  8. Joe Johnson says:

    Thank you for this article. I don’t know how many times I did all of these mistakes before I caught on to what I was doing wrong, not my dog.

    Now I try to teach others who are training their dogs, Patience, Consistency and quickly reward positive behavior.

    The article is extremely helpful, Thanks.


    Minette Reply:

    So glad you like it, thank you so much for your comments. It is the positive comments that make my week 😀


  9. Catherine Rees says:

    Our Choc. Lab. Jack, is very intelligent & will follow commands pretty well. He’s quiet around the house but when people come to our house he jumps & is a real hand full it’s very difficult to control him. He is very friendly & loves people & likes to meet other dogs. We try to keep him under control so he doesn’t jump but it’s hard to make him stop. He has been to obedience class (didn’t graduate). We love him dearly & he is spoiled but we’d like to be able to train him not to jump. Have tried treats, the can filled w/ rocks & unfortunately hollering at him. He’s a good dog & likes to please
    ..the jumping is causing us grief. Is there a good way to keep him from jumping?


    Minette Reply:

    Yes, put him on a leash before you have company and make him comply to a incompatible command like sit or down.

    I also like to make my dogs lay on their bed on command. Use a leash until you can trust your dog to be off leash, not jump, and listen to your commands.


  10. lisa Boswell says:

    I’ve got a 6 month old staffy she keeps jumping all over us gets very excited could you please tell me how to calm her down please


  11. Laurie McCormick says:

    Thank you so much for your article.
    I wish all trainers understood this. When I took our golden (now 3) as a puppy to a local trainer I was constantly being reprimanded for not being agressive enough with him. Choke collar, jerking the leash and loud commands were the norm. Once I realized that his behavior only got worse with each punishment (and quit going) and switched to a reward system were there any positive training results.It took alot more time to retrain and to gain his trust.


  12. Carolyn says:

    My dog Rusty is very well trained thanks to the training instructions that I purchased from you about two years ago. Another trainer that I was lucky enough to meet on a walk in a park taught me to put a biscuit above his head to make him sit and one down toward the ground to lie down. I have taught him to sit and stay when someone approaches with or without a dog. He does very well, especially if I treat him often. I never try to train him when I am not feeling well or I am stressed about something. And most of all if I get to the point where I am losing patience I simply stop and give us both a rest. Thanks for your wonderful training site!


  13. JULIA says:

    I have a chiwawa mix (have no idea what the mix is)..he is a little over a year old and have had him since last March…He is wonderful and very loving and very needy, which I don’t mind. but he jumps all over the kids or any guests when they come thru the door, even me and nips at their hands or butts. We try to correct him but he keeps doing it. One other thing is, he is one of 6 dogs we have. We have 3 Yorkies, a maltese chiwawa mix, pure chiwawa, and then my mix…..so I have no idea how to train them all. I do most of the care of these dogs, make sure they go outside (they get a treat for this, but there is still peeing and pliaooping in the house, which I clean up..one of the Yorkies is mine and she lets me know when she has to go outside by staring ay me and chortling, even at 2am and I do take her out, praise her and she gets her treat.But I really need help with my other mix and the jumping…Thanks Julia


    Minette Reply:

    You are thinking about it wrong, don’t correct… prevent.

    Read this and you can search for more subjects as you need them 1/4 way down on the right side of the page


  14. Susan P says:

    I have a four month old rescue, she is good in the crate and when we go out, but she won’t go out for anyone but me. She can be outside for hours only to come inside and pee. How can I get her to go outside for my husband?; and to stop coming inside to pee?


    Minette Reply:

    You say she is out for hours… perhaps she peed when she went outside and then has to pee again. That needs to be taken into consideration. If my dog was out for 3 hours, chances are he peed when he went out and then needs to pee right after he comes in and drinks water.

    Have your husband put a leash on and guider her outside.


  15. Ihave a small dog (poddle mix poodle mix w/ pekingese.she licks on any thing ,pillows, guest shoes & a lot of things, i try to keep her treats,and to teach her off the soffa,do u have a answer for this?


    Minette Reply:

    Read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/caution-dog-control-licker/


  16. Emily says:

    I know this post is old – but I’m curious to learn how you corrected yourself from correcting in the agility ring and got your dog to play with you again. I’m having a huge problem with my corgi. We’re in Open, and I’m not quite sure where the breakdown happened, but now if she takes a wrong course and I try to recollect her, she shuts down. She stops, looks at me, then makes towards the exit. I’ve tried to eliminate all sounds, motions or body language that would be seen as mad or unhappy – I’m actually training myself to run as silently as possible.
    Any tips for getting a dog back on course without it sounding like a correction?


    Minette Reply:

    You have to make it fun.

    If my dog stopped in agility or did something wrong or went to sniff something, I just kept running the course like she was with me, still commanding and pretending she was there.

    Her reaction the first time was priceless, she was like… OMG she is still running and having fun and she caught up to me and we finished the course.

    I don’t allow her missteps to make me angry, I just carry on and that is all the correction she needs… thinking I am having fun without her.


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