Positive discipline techniques won't scare your puppy, but rather only serve to interrupt or discourage his negative behaviors, redirecting them into positive ones when possible. When combined with positive reinforcement, your little one will learn to behave in ways that please you, because he knows they result in pleasant rewards.
Rewarding the Positive
When first teaching any behavior or command to your puppy, lavish him with lots of praise and treats. Food provides a powerful motivator for your pooch, marking the behavior you do want so that he knows he should repeat it in the future. Positive discipline, also referred to as constructive discipline, works in the same way in that it marks negative behaviors so that your pup learns not to duplicate them. Unlike traditional discipline methods, which involve physical or vocal punishments, constructive discipline doesn't use fear as a motivation for desirable behavior. Fear in an ineffective motivator that produces temporary results and, in the long run, only serves to frighten and traumatize the pup.
Make your puppy work for your attention and desirable treats or toys. What this means is that you only give positive attention to your little pup when he sits politely, doesn't mouth you or your possessions and obeys your commands. If Fido is being destructive, unruly or even slightly aggressive, withhold any treats, attention and praise, simply ignoring your pup's antics. This type of discipline teaches little Fido that if he wants to get your attention and those tasty rewards, he'll have to be well-behaved. Don't yell at or in any way interact with your pup when he's misbehaving; this provides him with negative attention, inadvertently reinforcing the behavior.
When ignoring your pup's behavior isn't an option, such as when he's in the middle of gnawing on your expensive shoes, interrupt his unacceptable behavior with a clap of your hands or a knock on a wall. Once Fido has stopped what he's doing, quickly redirect his behavior into something acceptable. For example, replace the expensive shoes he was gnawing on with a chew toy. Once he is doing what you want, like chewing on a toy, praise and reward him for it. Use this same procedure if you catch Fido in the middle of a potty accident. Interrupt his behavior, bring him outside and command him to potty. When he finishes outdoors, reward and praise him.
Distraction and Time-Outs
Some puppy behaviors need immediate consequences that aren't traumatic or harmful. For instance, if your pup bites you during play, immediately say "ouch" loudly and leave the room for a puppy "time-out" lasting around three minutes. After the time-out, do something positive, like teach him a command, and reward him when he performs the behavior. Pretty soon Fido will understand that he loses your attention and play stops when he does something unacceptable, like bite, but that when he does something you want, he gets rewards. The positive training after a time-out helps to end your interactions on a positive, rather than negative note.
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.