9 Simple reasons negative reinforcement is bad for your dog

Published by , 30th October 2016 in Dog Training

9 Simple reasons negative reinforcement is bad for your doghow-to-punish-a-dog-300x198 9 Simple reasons negative reinforcement is bad for your dog Dog Training

Those of you new to dog ownership and housetraining may not know that there are many various ways of training a dog. A simple search online for dog training methods for even a very specific problem will result in thousands of results, which often conflict and will leave you more confused than when you began. However, one rule almost always applies to any form of dog training: methods involving dog punishment will often have a negative impact on your dog’s emotional and psychological state.

Here’s the list with 9 reasons why you should not punish your dog.

9. Punishment may make your dog fear you

Every dog owner wants to raise their little friend as just that: their friend. If you punish your dog for various little things he is going to begin to fear you as someone who periodically torments him. This, obviously, doesn’t make for a very healthy relationship, and while he may obey you and even stop doing the things he is punished for, it will have a serious negative impact on his view of you.

8. Your dog may not even know why he’s being punished

Speaking a human language would do wonders for the communication issues we have with our pets. It’s often difficult to convey anything to a dog and this goes doubly for yelling or physical punishment. Dogs have notoriously short memories, so by punishing your dog for something he did more than a minute or two ago, not only will it psychologically damage him, but he will either associate the punishment with a more recent action or simply have no idea why is being abused. Showing your dog the result of his bad behavior, such as a torn up shoe or a puddle of urine from hours ago will have zero effect toward making him realize he has done wrong. If you didn’t just witness the bad behavior it is already far too late to punish your dog for it.

7. Frequent punishment will confuse or frustrate your dog

Mostly because of the previous point, dogs typically don’t know why they are being punished. This is extremely frustrating for an animal who simply wants to please you. If this happens often enough your dog won’t simply change his bad behavior and may in fact cause him to become more violent or possibly reclusive, recoiling from your hand instead of seeing it as something which distributes belly rubs.

6. Yelling often reinforces the bad behaviors

Most methods of punishment rarely result in changed behavior, but yelling is one which will have an even worse effect: making their bad behavior even worse.  If you stop to consider what constitutes as a “bad” noise to a dog you will find it’s limited to things like growling or whining. Dogs love to bark and yelp. The louder the better. While it may be tempting, yelling is going to be interpreted by your dog as you joining in their amusement and will encourage him to repeat the actions that caused you to express yourself in the way you did. (to reduce excessive barking, read this post).

5. Punishment for natural behavior will frustrate him

There are many actions your dog do that you may wish to dissuade, but punishment is not going to have the desired effect. Certain actions such as barking, chewing, digging, and others come as naturally to them as breathing. Punishing them for something so ingrained in their behavior is going to prove exceptionally frustrating and do further psychological damage.

4. Consistent Punishment causes aggressive behaviors

Punishment may occasionally lead to a stop to the poor behavior, however, more often than not it will simply have no effect. This will cause a dog owner to repeatedly apply the punishment for an action the dog will never associate it with. This frequent and repetitive punishment is going to lead the dog to be afraid of you. A natural progression from there is going to be aggressive behavior toward you and others.

3. Your dog will become nervous around other people

Being punished by someone is likely going to give your dog the impression that people are inherently violent and should be avoided.  Again, dogs typically don’t believe they have done anything wrong to deserve the negative reaction they got, so they will believe they are on the receiving end of punishment for no reason. A further assumption is that this is just what people do and so they should be feared. Obviously, this isn’t the relationship we want for our furry friends.

2. It doesn’t address the root cause of the problem

The reason punishment as a training method is still around is because it works with our children, and it occasionally works for dogs. However, in the cases where it does work to stymy the poor behavior, it will not target the root of the issue. Rather, your dog will simply find other outlets for the behavior. If he is punished for chewing something, he will simply chew something else. If he pees in a corner and is punished for it, he may just choose a different corner. Alternatively, he may figure out he can get away with things as long as you aren’t watching. There are many ways these actions be manifest or present themselves, but it is something that will happen.

1. It will damage the relationship you have with your dog

Every dog owner wants the trust that comes with raising and training their pet. Trust is the most important thing to have when getting them to behave as you wish. Unfortunately, punishment has the opposite effect on him. He will stop trusting you which will have a chain reaction leading toward simply not obeying or respecting you at all.

Conclusion: Try not to punish your dog. Positive reinforcement is much more effective

It is infinitely more effective to use positive reinforcement to encourage good behavior over punishing for bad behavior. Rewarding behavior that is not compatible with bad behavior will eventually cause your dog to effectively stop the bad behavior altogether. Granted this method is more difficult and will take longer, but none of the negative side effects exist that would give your dog cause to fear or not trust you.

What are your thoughts on this?

Happy training!