All families who have dogs care about training them. We are constantly teaching things to dogs, and even if they are only imitating us, they never stop learning. We know that when our dog does something we like we should reward him. Likewise, when he does something we don’t like, we punish him. But we have to ask ourselves, are punishments appropriate? Do they help dogs learn? Here are six reasons why you shouldn’t punish dogs.
Physical and psychological punishments
A “punishment” can be defined as an unpleasant experience added after a behavior that we do not want to be repeated. For example, punishment is to give a dog a tug of the leash when he tries to run after a bicycle.
Generally, there are two types of punishments: physical and psychological ones. Examples of physical punishments are slaps, kicks, or blows... but also leash pulling or immobilizing a dog.
Since they are less known, we may not take into account that psychological punishments are also very damaging. These are punishments that do not do physical harm, but they do threaten the mental well-being of the dog: threats, yelling, scolding, the famous firm “No!”, isolating a dog…
Both types of punishment cause harm. And both not only inhibit the dog from learning and behaving better, but also hinder his learning process. In other words, if we punish him, a dog will learn slower and not as much.
The best method for teaching anything to a dog (or any other animal, since it is a technique used in dolphin training, for example) is positive reinforcement. With positive reinforcement, the dog receives a prize after doing something that we would like him to repeat, and the pleasant experience encourages the dog to repeat it. You can reward him in many ways: with food, attention, with a toy…
1. We don’t know how to apply punishments
According to the theory of the laws of learning, punishments do help people learn new things. However, they must be applied with the right intensity and at the right time: humans do not make the punishment as precise as it needs to be.
We do not know how to apply punishments: we apply them too late, too intensely or too softly. We do not know how to use punishments to communicate what we want to the dog. When punishments seem random to a dog, they are useless for learning.
2. Punishments interrupt the learning process
One of the most reliable ways to learn is the ‘ trial and error ‘ technique. When we give the dog the opportunity to learn something, what he will do is try different things to achieve what we want. If when we reward him, we are giving him clear information about what we want, and so we are able to teach him.
On the contrary, if we punish him for what we do not like, we are interrupting this process, and we do not give him the opportunity to exhibit the behavior that we want him to repeat. We punish too soon and inhibit a dog’s freedom to continue trying.
3. Punishments cause fear
4. They make a dog lose trust in us
The punishments we apply are random, come at a bad time and can affect a dog emotionally. They seem erratic to dogs. What we achieve by punishing a dog is to look like unpredictable people.
Our dogs won’t trust us and want to be by our side if we punish them from time to time. We are making them go through bad experiences without understanding why. We become crazy people that our dogs cannot trust.
5. They don’t provide information
Out of all them, this is perhaps the most important reason why you shouldn’t punish your dog: a punishment does not provide information on what good behavior is. By punishing we tell dogs what we don’t want, but not what we want. If we don’t allow the dog to try different things until he guesses the correct behavior, he can never get to him.
With punishments. we are preventing a dog from reaching the conclusion we wish him to come to. We’re not letting him learn, we’re just inhibiting him. If he never knows what is good, it seems logical that he’ll never do it.
6. They make us feel bad
Few people like to have to punish or scold their dogs, and yet we feel very good when we reward them. People who constantly correct their dog feel less happy and more frustrated. However, rewarding a dog because he has learned to do something is very satisfying.
If the rest of the reasons not to punish your dog do not convince you, perhaps this will: when you punish, you also feel bad. You will be much happier and have a better relationship with your dog if you focus on what he does well and learn to reward him when he deserves it.
In conclusion, we can be sure that punishments have bad effects on both humans and dogs. Changing the training method to one based only on rewards makes us feel better about ourselves.
Using punishments when training our dogs not only prevents them from learning, but also makes us feel bad about ourselves. If we banish punishments and focus solely on rewarding good behaviors, the dog will learn faster and we’ll be happier.