How to Mitigate Your Dog's Temper Tantrums

Published: 5/25/2021
Just like children, dogs can also throw temper tantrums when they’re asked to do something they don’t like. You’ve likely seen videos of canine hissy fits online—a dog “arguing” with their human when dinnertime doesn’t come soon enough, one whining when they’re told to get off a chair, and another one who refuses to move when it’s time to leave the dog park.

These videos are cute and funny, but they show the more harmless types of tantrums. Some canine temper tantrums involve biting and destructive behaviors—these are not to be taken lightly and must be addressed right away to make sure they don’t become an even bigger problem down the road. 

Dealing with Your Dog’s Temper Tantrums

A behavior that is allowed to continue will only grow stronger and become more difficult to correct later on, so it’s important to deal with your dog’s temper tantrums as soon as possible, ideally while they’re still young. Needless to say, it’s easier and safer to handle a tantrum-throwing puppy who nips than an adult dog who’s bigger and has a more powerful bite. 

Here are a couple of scenarios where your dog might throw a tantrum, and what you can do to mitigate the situation.

When putting on a leash

Some dogs hate leashes and will throw a tantrum as soon as you put one on them. They might throw themselves onto the floor, bite the leash, or worse, bite you. Your immediate reaction might be to let go of the leash; however, doing so sends your pooch the message that throwing a tantrum gets them what they want. 

Instead, you want to keep the leash taut and wait for your dog to calm down before you relax your hold. Don’t yell at them and don’t get excited. Stay calm and unemotional. You’ll likely have to repeat this a few more times before your dog understands that they need to be calm whenever you put a leash on them.

If you want to step it up a notch, you can even train your canine companion to like their leash. Here’s how: 

  1. Take your dog outside to the yard or the dog park and let them run for a bit.
  2. Call them to come to you.
  3. Ask them to sit.
  4. Put on the leash while giving them a treat. 
  5. Take the leash off and let them run around again. 
  6. Repeat steps 2-5 a few more times. 
Giving your dog a treat while putting on the leash and letting them off the leash for a bit teaches them to associate it with good things. 

If your pup stays calm while being leashed but becomes angry when you start walking, the same rule applies—wait for them to calm down before you try again. If your dog is wearing a back-clip harness, you can hold the leash at arm’s length to keep your pup away from your body until they’ve calmed down. 

While holding your dog

If your dog starts throwing a temper tantrum while you’re holding them, continue holding on to them as quietly as you can. Don’t say anything and don’t shout at them. You can place one hand on your pup’s chest and the other on the back of their collar if you’re concerned about getting bitten. 

Wait for your dog to calm down. Once they’ve settled for one or two seconds, praise them and give them a treat, then let them go. Again, you’ll have to repeat this a few more times before your dog learns that being calm gets them what they want.

What To Do Next

The settle command, which asks your dog to relax on cue, is a good way to teach them how to calm down. This command is not only great for helping correct tantrum-throwing behavior, but it’s also handy when you have guests over, when you don’t want your pup to beg at the table, or when you need them to stay in a certain spot for a period of time.  

With a bit of patience and effort on your part, it’s possible for your tantrum-throwing dog to become a well-behaved canine. However, if you’ve been consistently applying the techniques mentioned above and your pup is still throwing tantrums on a regular basis, then there might be something else going on, and it would be wise to enlist the help of a professional dog trainer.


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