Time outs (Penalties)

To decrease unwanted behavior

WHAT IS A TIME OUT?

To decrease unwanted behavior, one option is a time out.  A time out is the removal of something the dog wants (e.g., a playmate, treats, or toys) after the dog “misbehaves.”

 

Use time outs after you’ve taught the dog what you’d like him to do in place of the problem behavior (for examples, see Sit Stay plans).
 

WHY USE TIME OUTS?

If done every time a dog misbehaves, time outs can decrease problem behaviors.

WHEN NOT TO USE TIME OUTS?

Don’t use time outs to try to decrease fearful or aggressive behaviors.

 

HOW TO USE TIME OUTS

When the dog starts the problem behavior, give a warning cue (e.g., “Uh oh”). If he stops the behavior, say “Thank you.” If he doesn’t stop the behavior, say “Time out,” then remove the thing the dog wants (e.g., stop play, remove attention), or direct or gently lead the dog to a time out location.

It takes 12-20 repetitions before most dogs make the connection between their behavior and the time out. Don’t give up if it doesn’t work right away! 

GENERAL POINTERS

  • Use management (e.g., Management for Jumpy/Mouthy Dogs) and reward behavior you like (e.g., “sit” in a jumpy dog). Do this often enough and you should find time outs are rarely needed.

  • The dog must receive a time out every time he ignores the “warning cue.” 

  • It is best to remove the thing the dog wants, rather than removing the dog from the situation. This avoids any possibility of the dog being physically moved in a way he finds unpleasant.

  • There should be nothing scary or intimidating about a time out. 

  • Time outs can vary in magnitude (e.g., from lasting a few seconds to play being ended for the day).  Long time-outs may change behavior more quickly but must be balanced with time limitations, and long time-outs mustn’t come at the expense of the dog's enrichment and exercise. This point is especially crucial in a shelter setting.

  • Don’t end the time out if the dog is demand barking. Wait until he is quiet for a few seconds to let him out or return to him.

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