Dog training is simple but it’s not easy!

I refer to punishment as fear, pain and startle discomfort (as seen in anti bark collars).

For many dog owners punishment may seem to be the answer to their problems. This is probably due to the fact that we as humans have become conditioned to the fact that if we do not do as we are asked that punishment follows. Dogs I am afraid do not think this way so we as humans are getting the whole thing wrong!

Does punishment or the threat of it really work? Does getting a speeding ticket stop you speeding forever? So why do we punish our dogs when we see for us it does not work?

So what is the power of punishment?

Owners want immediate results when they have a problem so punishment that only inhibits (not stops) behavior is now re enforced by the owner. It works so I will continue this method attitude.

So we assume that the dogs knows what instigated the punishment and you get the timing, intensity and duration of punishment exactly correct for it to be effective, without any other side effects, which I believe to be impossible as the animal decides aspects of this not you. Unfortunately you are now already n the slippery slope of unintended consequences.

So what are these unintended consequences?

The biggest risk is that if we punish our dogs warning signals when it feels uncomfortable, by that I mean the most obvious signal of a growl, we inhibit the dog from warning us in the future BUT we have not changed the underlying emotion. We now have a dog that feels threated or scared and will not warn you prior to a bite. In other words you have removed the ticker from the bomb!

Dogs get conditioned to the punishment and in time you will find you need to administer punishment more often and with greater intensity to have the same effect and because the work increases the relationship between you and your dog will ultimately breakdown. Any punishment that has to be repeated time and again is at best nagging and at worse abuse.

From the dog’s perspective, punishment that appears random without warning and for no reason eventually just causes the dog to shut down. Not much of a life for man’s best friend?

Your dog will learn that you are the source of the punishment and through the rules of learning just avoid carrying out the behavior that caused the punishment in your presence. This is when we see owner absent demonstrated on YouTube of a dog trashing his owner’s bed in his absence.

So what are the alternatives? Positive reinforcement techniques are the best option. They take a little more effort at the start but in the long-term you will have to work less hard and put in less effort to maintain the behaviors you desire and at the same time have a great relationship with your dog.

There are many sites you can Google that explain the core techniques of positive re-enforcement the skill of changing behavior with the minimum of stress to you or your animal through reward and praise. After all which teacher did we all prefer at school? The teacher, who was patient, praised and supported? Or was it the one who punished and berated you for every minor misdemeanor?

So as I said dog training is simple but it isn’t easy!

Kathy Begg

Clarchien Bolognese