When To Spray a Dog with Water – How To & Warnings


Using a water bottle to spray a dog to correct bad behavior is a training method that has been used for decades. I’ve used it off and on with the dogs I’ve owned and trained.

I’ve recently come across several blogs that teach that this technique is not effective and is outdated. I have to say, I completely disagree. 

There are times when using a spray bottle, or water gun can be an effective training technique and times when it’s not. 

There are many instances in which a spray bottle or water gun would come in handy with training. I do admit, though, that they won’t work with every dog.

Spraying With Water Should Not Be For Punishment

Spraying your dog with water in the act of inappropriate behavior should be used for training only. It should not be used as punishment or to “get back at” your dog for doing something inappropriate. It’s not meant to inflict pain.

Many people assume that it’s a form of punishment. Punishment usually involved some sort of pain (emotional or physical). That’s not what spraying a dog with a squirt gun or water bottle is meant to do. It’s meant to interrupt them when they are in the middle of an unwanted act of behavior.

It’s meant to teach them that what they are doing is wrong and will have unpleasant consequences.

WARNING: WATER ONLY

Many people ask if it’s OK to add vinegar or lemon juice to the water. The answer is no. It’s not ok to do this. This does not help with training and will inflict pain on your dog. They won’t understand or remember your lesson minutes later while they are feeling the effects of vinegar in the eye. Don’t do this!

The Effectiveness Depends on Your Dog’s Personality

The individual dog’s personality will determine how effective or ineffective using water spray as a training method will be. Some dogs won’t mind being sprayed in the face with water. Others will be frightened by it or made uncomfortable enough for the method to work.

It’s a good idea to test this on your dog. When he is doing something, he should not be doing, then spray him with water a few times and judge his reaction. 

This will tell you if it’s a training tool worth using or not. He might enjoy it too much or be too frightened by it for it to be effective.

Your Dog Needs To Make 2 Associations With Getting Sprayed With Water

#1 Associate the water with the unpleasant behavior

For the dog to understand the behavior you want him to stop, he has to associate getting sprayed with water with negative behavior.

So if he is jumping on your furniture, he has to learn that jumping on the furniture will also result in him getting sprayed with water.

This is why it’s important for training to be consistent and for water to be used only in the act of negative behavior (and not before or after).

Your dog needs to associate negative behavior with getting sprayed with water. It’s that simple.

#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.

6 Behaviors To Correct with Water Spray

Using water spray is a training method meant to stop and correct bad behavior in its tracks. It should only be used in the middle of bad behavior you are present for.

It should not be used as punishment after bad behavior has already occurred. Dogs will not understand this. It’s only effective to disrupt bad behavior, so you can redirect them and teach them what you do not want them doing.

#1 Get Dog To Stop Barking

Barking is normal, but some breeds bark more than others. Smaller dogs are prone to bark a lot, but occasionally bigger ones do.

If you have a dog that barks, yips, and yaps at the sound of the doorbell, people walking outside, cars driving by, and other random things–it can be frustrating. 

Teaching your dog that barking is not something you want him to do can be accomplished with consistent training. Using water spray is a good way to get the message across.

You may not be able to get him to stop barking completely, but you should be able to lessen the amount he barks by at least 50% if you are consistent.

For this, to work you need to be present and spray him with water each time he barks. Use your command, so he understands.

Spray him each time he starts barking at random noises and things that don’t matter. After a few weeks of this, he will understand that when he barks indoors, there is a chance he will get sprayed with water. This will cause him to bark less, though it probably won’t stop a dog from barking completely as it’s natural to them.

#2 Train Dog To Stop Biting

Do you have a dog that bites people and other animals? Maybe he is young and teething or older and just doesn’t know any better—whatever the case, you can use water spray to correct this behavior. Just make sure to make the correct associations.

#3 Use Water Spray To Stop Dogs Fighting

Dogs sometimes fight with each other. It is often just the way they play, but sometimes it can be serious and cause a lot of harm and injuries. Spraying two dogs fighting with water might be a good way to draw their attention away from each other.

I’m not sure a water bottle or water gun will work in every situation like this. If it’s outside, you should use a hose. That will get their attention!

#4 Get Them To Stop Chewing

If your dog is chewing up your stuff, try spraying them with water when you catch them chewing something. Many times they chew behind our backs and wait for us to leave a room.

If this is the case, try leaving objects around the house that you know your dog will want to chew. Do this at certain times you will be available to catch him in the act.

Baiting him into doing bad behavior is a good way for you to ensure you’ll be around in time to catch him.

#5 Stop Jumping On Furniture

Dogs love to lounge. Many dogs even act like they’re human. It’s not a surprise they like to get on our furniture, chairs, sofas, and even beds.

Not every owner is comfortable with this, especially if the dog sheds a lot of hair. 

A good way to teach a dog not to jump on your furniture (or certain pieces of furniture) is to spray him with water and shout “NO” in a firm voice.

He will understand and likely not jump on furniture after getting sprayed for a few days/weeks straight.

#6 Train Them To Stop Jumping on People

Most dogs can learn to stop jumping on people through other training techniques. Some dogs have a tough time with this.

You can spray your dog with water when he jumps on people, but the problem with this is that your guests might get wet.

It’s ok if it’s family, I guess. Maybe not the best behavior to correct with a water gun but certainly doable!

4 Times Water Spray Is A Bad Idea

#1 When The Dog Likes Getting Sprayed

Some dogs with a lot of energy will like getting sprayed in the face with water. It will give them stimulation that they enjoy and will be like a game to them. I know of a bulldog that’s like this. Every time he gets sprayed in the face with water, he licks the water and begs his owner to squirt him again.

If your dog does this, using water spray as an obedience training method isn’t a good idea. It won’t work.

#2 When The Dog Is Too Skittish

Some dogs are too skittish for water spray to work. These are dogs that have been traumatized or have psychological issues. The trauma could come from a traumatic event in puppyhood, getting sent to the animal shelter, getting jumped by other dogs, and many other things.

When some skittish dogs get sprayed with water, it causes them to enter into a fear-based, shocked-like state. Some dogs visibly tremble, and this can bother them for hours. This is rare, but if your dog reacts in a strong way to getting sprayed with water, then don’t use this technique.

Use your judgment and test this method on your dog before you decide to use it.

#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.

#4 When You Can’t Be Consistent

Using the water-spray technique is only effective if it’s consistently used. If you only use this technique a few times or for a few days, it may produce results, but the dog may return to the unwanted behavior sooner or later. 

Especially if you let a few instances slide under the radar and don’t correct the dog in the middle of the act.

Also, if you have a big family, then make sure everyone is on the same page with the training. The more people there are, the higher the chance of catching unwanted behavior in the act and correcting it.

If you spend time training your dog with this technique and the other family members don’t correct your dog in the middle of his bad behavior, then that will send mixed messages to the dog.

Related Questions

Is it OK to spray your dog with water?

Spraying your dog with water (and only water) is a safe and effective training technique that can be used to correct unwanted behavior. It only becomes unsafe when chemicals are added to the water (such as vinegar) which we do not recommend.

You should incorporate it into your training, but this water spray technique does not work for every dog. It depends on the dog’s personality and his reaction to being sprayed with water. If it works, then use it as often as needed.

Does spraying a dog with water cool them down?

Yes, especially if it’s hot during the summer months. Spraying a dog with a mist from a water bottle is an effective cooling method. You can also use a water gun. Some dogs won’t like a forceful spray, so a mist might be the best way to go.

Is a spray bottle a good way to train dogs?

Yes, for many dogs, a spray bottle is a great way to train a dog to stop unwanted behavior. However, this training tool doesn’t work well with dogs that enjoy being sprayed or have a traumatic fearful reaction to water.

Can I spray my dog with vinegar and water?

Absolutely not! This is a horrible idea. It’s bad for your dog, and shame on you or any other dog owner that does this. Water spray is only to be used to immediately correct bad behavior in the act. Adding vinegar can damage or inflict pain on your dog’s skin and eyes. Do not punish a dog after the act.

Dogs will not understand punishment after an act of bad behavior. Having the smell of vinegar and skin/eye irritation will do nothing regarding training a dog.

Final Thoughts

Spraying a dog with water can be an effective tool when it comes to obedience training. As we’ve discussed in this article, it works for many dogs but not all. You should experiment and test this technique on your dog to decide on whether it will work or not.

So, do you spray your dog with water? Let us know in the comments what your experience has been and if you have any tips for other readers.

Andrew

I am a dog trainer and passionate about canine health and behavior problems. I train dogs of all ages but specialize in training dogs with behavioral issues such as aggression or anxiety. My favorite part of my job is watching the transformation that takes place when an owner starts to understand their pet’s needs and how to meet them.

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