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Punishment in dogs: good or bad idea?

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Punishment in dogs: good or bad idea?

When dogs do something stupid, owners often tend to scold them to let them know that what they have done is not right. Punishment, however, is not the right solution to educate an animal. It is better to use positive education methods rather than punishment.

Why are punishments not advised?

Owners often use punishment to train dogs, to make them understand that they are not happy with what they have done. For example, puppies can be punished if they poop inside the house instead of outside. Dogs can also be punished if they destroyed objects in the absence of the owners, etc.

The punishments are however contraindicated. Indeed, for a punishment to be “effective”, that is to say understood by the animal, it must be immediate and it’s enough aversive to prevent the animal from starting again.

Punishments are generally not effective for several reasons:

  • punishments are rarely immediate, it is rare to be able to catch the animal
  • for a punishment to be aversive, it would harm animal welfare

Punishment is therefore not the solution to educate an animal, he will not understand that what he has done is not good thanks to the punishment.

The punishments can even be against-productive insofar as they can be a source of stress for the animal. This can lead to or worsen certain troublesome behaviors in dogs: uncleanliness, destruction, etc.

Finally, always keep in mind that you cannot blame an animal for something that is natural to him or that he cannot control. Here are several examples:

  • puppy cleanliness training usually takes several weeks to several months. Some puppies take longer than others to learn that they need to poop only outside and not in the house. Punishing them will not make them understand more quickly that the house is not the right place for their needs.
  • a puppy discovers the world with his mouth (this is called the oral phase) and loses his baby teeth between 4 and 7 months, so he needs to chew. Rather than punish him if he chews on your stuff, offer him suitable toys that he can chew safely (under your supervision).
  • A dog can do its business in the house for health reasons: once again there is no need to scold it, taking care of its health problems will probably solve the problem.

It is recommended to use positive education methods to train dogs rather than punishment. It comes down to them congratulate and to them reward when they do what you ask them (sitting, lying down, pawing, etc.) with treats, toys or even petting.

Using positive use methods has several advantages:

  • dogs learn this way easier and faster
  • this makes it possible to establish a trust between the animal and its owner

Please read our positive education fact sheet for more information.

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