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Spritzing Your Dog

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Q: Some puppy kindergarten trainers use a squirt bottle to squirt water (with or without additives such as lemon juice, vinegar, Bitter Apple, etc.) to squirt a puppy if it plays too roughly with others. Do you consider this a positive and up-to-date technique? Is this a technique you personally use or endorse? And if not, what would you recommend doing instead, when one pup in class plays too roughly with another?

spray bottle

A: This is punishment. I don't care for it. It is certainly not positive and it is not up-to-date. I don't think the puppy associates being sprayed with its own behavior; it might well blame the other puppy. Also other puppies might get sprayed by accident.

About ten years ago I wrote a piece on the web about spraying my dog (once, only) to establish the scent of vanilla as a conditioned aversive. I then sprayed the wastebaskets to keep her from raiding them and tearing up used Kleenexes. Worked great. Catching her and spraying her as she dove into the wastebaskets would not have worked at all (which is what people are doing when they spray puppies at play). However there may be an impression out there still, somewhere, that Karen Pryor uses nasty spray bottles so it must be okay.

So, no I don't use this or endorse it.

If a puppy gets "too rough," remove it and crate it for a few minutes. Or put it with larger or older companions to learn some dog manners.

About the author
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Karen Pryor is the founder and CEO of Karen Pryor Clicker Training and Karen Pryor Academy. She is the author of many books, including Don't Shoot the Dog and Reaching the Animal Mind. Learn more about Karen Pryor or read Karen's Letters online.

Casey Lomonaco's picture

Some dogs LIKE to be sprayed

I am not an advocate of the spray bottle as an aversive in training either. I will say, however, that some dogs LOVE being sprayed and if your dog is one of these, and you use a spray bottle to correct unwanted behavior, you may inadvertently be rewarding a behavior you tried to punish.

Casey Lomonaco, KPA CTP, APDT

Rewarding Behaviors Dog Training

Binghamton, New York



Please may I add that I use the spray to "cool down" the dog. It wasn't clear in my post. Never punishment just cool down and refreshment as needed. Also when I groom them I use a mister bottle for help with matting so there again they can't be afraid of a spray bottle.

Afraid of the spray bottle can be bad for other times


I agree that the spray bottle is punishment. I use the spray bottle to lightly spray my dog between races in Flyball. I can even give her a squirt as a quick drink in the lane before the race starts. I live in the desert and we have some real challenges keeping the dogs cool.

Another situation is our pool. I need my dogs "pool proof" so any spray in their face should be a good thing.

And lastly the vet tech uses a spray bottle to clean off the exam table.

Just my two cents.


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