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Punishing Dogs For Being Bad: What Works And What Doesn’t
June 3, 2013
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Does punishing a dog after it does something wrong, work?

In Psychology Today, UBC psychologist and author of The Intelligence of Dogs and How to Speak Dog, Dr. Stanley Coren says typical punishments don't really work.

Whether it's the case he cites (whacking a bad dog across the nose with a newspaper), or rubbing your dog's nose in poop, these punishments don't do much.

In fact, the American Humane Association says punishing a dog for a poop accident will teach your dog to fear you, and he may hide when he has to "go."

Dr. Coren points to research done by University of Pennsylvania psychologists that examined how dogs responded to different punishments.

The question the researchers looked at was whether or not punishing a dog after they'd already done something wrong was effective.

The setup was the so-called "taboo training" technique. Two bowls were set in front of two groups of beagles. One bowl had meat; the other dried kibble.

The dogs were allowed to eat the dried kibble but punished for eating the meat by getting a whack on their nose with a tightly rolled newspaper.

The two conditions were:

1. The dog is punished right away when it simply goes to the bowl (call this the no delay punishment group)

2. The dog gets to eat the meat for 15 seconds before it's punished (call this the delayed punishment group).


The no delay group learned not to eat the meat in two days, compared with 30 for the delayed punishment group. The immediate punishment group was even wary of kibble, while the delayed group showed lots of negative emotions and fear.

Coren concludes that catching a dog just as he's about to do an unwanted action and then immediately punishing them, might be helpful. But delays make pets afraid of the entire situation.

As dog trainer Helen Taylor puts it, "Due to absence of language skills and the slightly different way that a dog's mind learns and forms associations, dogs often do not make correct association between deed and punishment and are likely to be confused as to why their owner has become 'aggressive'."

Dog_training_1.jpgIn the journal, Veterinary Medicine, Texas veterinarian Dr. Valerie V. Tynes has three punishment criteria.

She says punishment has to occur every time the dog is bad; it has to be strict enough to stop the dog from doing it again; and it has to happen within a few seconds.

And of course, positive reinforcement can do wonders. In Tynes' article, "Why Punishment Fails; What Works Better" she addresses dogs jumping on guests.

This is often dealt with by a light whack across the nose or a downward shove. Tynes suggest owners use positive reinforcement to teach the dog to sit to greet everyone.

Sitting is an alternate behavior that can be rewarded with petting or food treats.

Certified animal behavior consultant, Yvette Van Veen, tells the Toronto Star, "For punishment to work, it needs to be relevant, immediate and severe enough to make the point." She also says, "Pet dogs should learn to sit for everything they want in life."

Via Psychology Today


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