When you get a dog, you know how quickly you start to love them and how fast they become irreplaceable members of your family. Playing with them is endlessly fun, but getting them to listen to you can be difficult and can become a significant issue. 

The best way to get your dog to listen to you is by encouraging positive behavior instead of constantly punishing negative behavior. Your dog will become more likely to do the good things you want them to through happy learning versus scare tactics. 

They will grow to learn good manners and phase out the bad ones. We’ll discuss the five most straightforward ways you can encourage positive behavior in your dog. 

What Is Positive Reinforcement?

Before we jump in, you should know what we mean by positive reinforcement. Dogs are the most lovable creatures on the planet, but they don’t see things the way humans do. You may have heard you should punish them if they do something wrong, so they know you did not like it.

However, punishing them harshly or frightening them will only yield adverse outcomes. Not only does fear not work in the long term to prevent unwanted behaviors, but you are also very likely to traumatize your dog, which can cause even more behavioral problems down the road. 

On the other hand, positive reinforcement is a much more impactful way to get your dog to engage in the right actions. Instead of yelling at your dog to get off the couch, give them treats when they lay in their bed or on the floor. This will teach them that doing the other actions means getting treats; therefore, they will do them more often. 

Challenge Your Dog

Dog boredom can lead to destructive behavior, so it’s essential to keep your dog entertained and challenged daily. Dogs are naturally full of energy, especially younger ones. That means it’s important to take them for long walks or make sure they get lots of exercise in the dog park. 

Dogs are curious creatures, too. Spend time teaching them new tricks or hiding things around the house for them to find. This can encourage mental stimulation and will keep them happier overall.

Create a Routine

If you have an anxious dog who is prone to getting into trouble, one of the best things you can do is establish a consistent routine. This means feeding them at the same time every day, going for walks at the same time, and keeping things as regular as possible.  

Creating a nurturing and consistent environment is the best way to get your dog to trust you, and they will be more open to engaging in positive behavior when you are training them later. 

Ignore Bad Behavior

If it’s not something harmful, try to ignore your dog’s bad behavior. This means not giving them attention when they bark too much, or if they nip at you, turn and walk away. If your dog is chewing on something it shouldn’t be, don’t yell or punish them for it. Instead, replace the chewed item with a bone or toy. 

That way, you’re showing them you don’t want them to chew something, but you’re also giving them something else to do instead. So there is positive reinforcement after all. 

Only pay attention to and reward the good things they do — this will encourage them to stop doing bad things because there is more incentive to do the good ones. 

Spend Time Together

Similar to challenging your dog, it’s crucial to spend quality time with them. Dogs do not like being left alone for long periods, so make sure you’re with them for as much time as you can be every day.

Cuddle them if they come up to you, let them give you kisses, play tug of war, and bond with them in a way they enjoy. Creating this kind of deep relationship with your dog is essential in getting them to listen to you later on and engage in positive behavior.  

Use One Word Commands

This one is pretty straightforward. Make sure to use one-word commands during your training — sit, stay, come, eat. One word is the easiest for dogs to understand versus phrases. As long as you remain consistent with your one-word commands, your dog will learn quickly and attach positive behaviors to them.

Try to use a calm, positive tone with your dog — they can pick up on slight mood changes in your voice better than you realize, which can affect how they respond. 

Get Everyone Involved

The best way to encourage positive behaviors in your dog is by getting everyone involved in the home. Have family members help out by giving treats for good actions, playing with the dog, and taking them for long walks. 

Dogs are pack animals, and they will view anyone in their living space as their members, so they should have good relationships. Also, if family members train them, they will listen to them when they need to. 

Your dog will thrive in your home if the rules are clear, consistent, and fair. Don’t get angry or punish your dog for making mistakes — instead, focus on rewarding good behavior. 


About the Author: Cyd Ross is a founding member of an organization dedicated to rescuing livestock and pets from evacuation zones. Ranch life has given her experience with most animals, but her focus is on training horses and dogs. Cyd loves competing in endurance events of 50-100 miles with her Arabians.