Does Spraying a Dog or Cat With Water Work? Nope, training your dog by spraying it with water does not work. When working with dog training clients, trainers have witnessed some who spray their puppies for mouthing, yet their arms are covered in scratches. Spraying the dog with water was not helping.
#2 Associate a Word or Noise with the Water Spray
It’s helpful to associate the word “NO” or another word/noise with the use of the water spray. The water itself is meant to surprise the dog and get his attention to stop the bad behavior. Most dogs won’t like it.
Each time you spray the dog with water, you should have a command you use to let the dog know he is doing something wrong.
The goal is to train him to the point he won’t need a water bottle. Your command of “NO” (or whatever other noise/word) will eventually take the place of the water spray. You’ll be able to command the dog with your voice and be able to get his attention without the spray.
So to recap, first, you need to associate the negative behavior with getting sprayed with water. Then you need to associate a word or sound with getting sprayed with water.
#3 When Another Training Method is Being Used
Spraying a dog with water is not the only obedience training method. It should be used on its own, though. I would caution against using too many tools and techniques together.
For example, if you are using a dog collar to limit the number of times your dog barks (which I am somewhat against), it won’t help spray him with water when he barks on top of the collar.
If you are going to use this technique, I’d make sure it’s the only one you are using to address the behavior.
Let me ask you this: if you were at the mall with a small child and the child said to you, “That man is really scary”, should you tell the child to “shut up” and encourage them to get closer to the scary man? Essentially what you’re doing to the dog is punishing them for their feelings, which doesn’t help them feel any better. You’re not teaching them that other dogs aren’t scary, you’re actually adding to the problem. They’re already likely feeling stress and now on top of that, they’re learning to be afraid of you – especially when you have a spray bottle. There are 8 rules to follow if you want to punish behaviors successfully. One of those rules states that the punishment shouldn’t be associated with you. This really is impossible if you’re the one holding the spray bottle and it’s even worse if you just show them the spray bottle as a threat to stop behavior. Another rule states, timing is critical – you must deliver the punishment within a half second of the behavior you want to stop. When you think about these two rules I just mentioned, how is a spray bottle going to effectively change behavior?
My choice for training is to teach my learner what I would like them to do, instead of focusing on stopping unwanted behavior. I control the environment so that they can’t practice the unwanted behavior. I also set up the environment so they are likely to choose a desirable behavior that I can then reinforce. I take small steps to reach my goal, only moving forward when I’m getting a high success rate and take a step back when my learner is struggling. This creates very little stress on my learner and increases their level of trust in me. When I’m done, I have a learner who will happily choose to do what I want, because that behavior has a history of positive reinforcement. When working with dogs that have issues with other dogs, my goal is to change the way they feel about other dogs. This is best done through a positive association with other dogs, which can’t be done using punishment. I want my fearful dog to see other dogs and think good thoughts, not fear punishment such as getting sprayed in the face or shocked. Using positive reinforcement (R+) I can successfully change how my dog feels when it sees other dogs.
The spray bottle falls into the same category as pinch collars (P+) as they are used to stop unwanted behavior. Let’s get into answering the above questions. At a seminar, one of my favorite trainer/teachers, Kathy Sdao, made a comparison between training and gardening. She asked, if a person who focused on stopping unwanted behavior in a dog was considered a dog trainer, would a person who killed weeds with poison be considered a gardener? It’s a very good analogy – the point is about focus. Are you focused on stopping unwanted behavior or teaching behavior you would like to see more often?
If you google, “spray bottle dog training,” you’ll find lots of products and articles telling you how great spray bottles are for training your dog. Noisemakers fall into the same category because they work basically the same way. But should this be referred to as training? What’s really happening when you use a tool to stop unwanted behavior? Is there a method that would work better?
The use of P+ has some drawbacks as it really doesn’t teach the animal what it is you want them to do, much like yelling “NO!” – it might stop the unwanted behavior, but it’s usually just a temporary fix. When we use punishment, science also teaches us that there is something called a punishment callous. This essentially means that the animal will get conditioned to the current level of punishment and it will stop working. Here’s a typical example if your focus is to stop pulling on a leash. You switch from a buckle collar to a choke chain collar to help your corrections become more effective, and then you move to a pinch collar when the choke chain is no longer working. After your dog becomes conditioned to the pinch collar you might move to a shock collar, some with 50 different levels of intensity. Or you could choose to do what one person did at a local “Love Your Pet” event, put TWO pinch collars on your dog.
Is it animal abuse to spray a dog with water?
Can I spray my dog with water to stop barking?