Last month, my wife and I found a stray puppy walking down the side of a remote highway in the desert. He was confused, filthy, covered in ticks, and losing his fur. We felt that we had no choice but to rescue him, so the next thing you know, he was in the backseat of our truck coming home with us.
Getting him in the car was easy, and he was calm and relaxed on the ride home. For a split second I actually thought, “maybe this guy’s gonna be an easy dog to care for.” Well, about one hour after bringing him home, that pipe dream flew out the window.
He was running around our yard and our house like a maniac, knocking things over and making a mess; he was chewing everything he could wrap his jaws around; and he was constantly biting us and our other dog, and barking incessantly to get attention. He was utterly uncontrollable, and for a brief moment I honestly felt like I was losing my mind…
My solution? Spray him with a water bottle any time he’s misbehaving.
Why the Spray Bottle Works So Well
When an untrained puppy is biting you, barking at you, or chewing up your favorite possessions, there’s little you can do to stop them without resorting to cruelty. Many owners resort to cramming their puppy in a crate, and basically just ignoring them. I don’t agree with that method – if you want to learn more about why we’re against crating, you can read this article.
Instead, when my puppy, Morty, is misbehaving, I squirt him with the spray bottle, and firmly tell him, “no!” The spray bottle is an effective deterrent because most dogs – even dogs that like playing in water, like he does – hate getting sprayed with water. It’s confusing, startling, and irritating. It’s like the opposite of getting a treat. But the best part is, it’s completely harmless.
Dogs, especially puppies, have very short attention spans, and can easily be distracted. If you can startle them, you’ll break their concentration, and then have a chance at getting them to stop whatever bad thing they’re doing. Sometimes I have to spray Morty a few times before he actually stops what he’s doing, loudly saying, “no,” with each spray.
The first spray gets his attention. Sometimes that’s all it takes. Other times, he needs an additional two or three sprays to let him know that if he continues what he’s doing, he’s going to continue to get sprayed.
After using this method for several weeks, I sometimes don’t even need to spray him anymore. He’s learned to associate the “no” command with getting sprayed, so if he just hears that command, he knows he’s supposed to stop what he’s doing. Puppies can be stubborn, though, so if “no” is not enough, I’ll indicate to him that I’m getting the spray bottle, and that usually does the trick.
The Spray Bottle Method Won’t Work Forever, So Use it Wisely
It’s important that you only spray them when it’s absolutely necessary, and that you always tell them, “no” or “stop,” or whatever you want your command to be. Sooner or later, your dog will realize the spray bottle is totally harmless, and they won’t care if you spray them; they may even start to treat it like a game. The more you spray them, the sooner they will figure this out.
Are there Any Negative Side Effects?
I’ve used this method on other dogs in the past, and my mother is also a big fan of it. We have not observed any negative side effects as a result of it.