Should You Use a Squirt Bottle to Train Your Dog?

Learn whether a squirt bottle is a useful training tool and discover the super top secret of dog training.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
5-minute read
Episode #100

This week, I’ll take up a question posted on my Facebook page: Should you use a squirt bottle to train your dog?

Should You Use a Squirt Bottle to Train Your Dog?

There’s a short answer, and it’s no. But the long answer--or as long as we’re going to get, being Quick and Dirty--includes some handy tools for figuring out how to solve problems when you’re training your dog. In fact, it includes the whole, entire, complete super top secret of dog training. Betcha can’t wait.

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Positive Reinforcement and Dog Training

The technical definition of positive reinforcement is “a consequence of some particular behavior that makes that particular behavior more likely to happen again.” For example, suppose you give your dog a treat for lying down on cue, or for turning her attention away from some appealing street garbage and toward you. The treat will (probably) positively reinforce lying down / turning her attention to you. (I have to say "probably," because the proof comes in seeing how your dog's future behavior is affected. But if you're using halfway decent treats, the odds are pretty good!)

So can squirt bottles be part of positive reinforcement training? Nope, not unless the dog likes the water spray and the spray makes him more likely to repeat the behavior you responded to with spraying. If your dog loves being sprayed, you have my blessing to use your squirt gun as a reward.

Do Spray Bottles Work in Dog Training?

Even when punishments work, they don’t teach your dog what you do want her to do.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).