Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Should we train our dogs using punishment or reward?

There’s been a lot in the press and social media recently about the use of punishment and about animal emotion. An article on the topic, therefore, seemed pertinent.

First, let’s define what punishment is. The use of punishment in dog training is where we do something unpleasant to indicate to the dog that we don’t want them to do something.

Here are some examples:
  • ·      A tap on the nose
  • ·      Threatening them with a rolled up newspaper
  • ·      Jerking their collar when they pull (whether using a choke chain or not)
  • ·      Using a shock, spray or citronella collar to stop a dog pulling or barking
  • ·      Using a prong collar
  • ·      Shouting at them; saying “NO” or “STOP IT”
  • ·      Saying “Was that you?”

So do you use punishment in dog training? I’m hoping that if you do, then you’re saying, well yes, but just the mild kind.

The thing is that dogs’ brains are really quite simple. We don’t need to punish the unwanted behaviours. We can simply prevent unwanted things from happening until new behaviours have been learned and the original habits have faded.  Applying such preventative measures also helps to reduce our need to be frequently annoyed with them (sounds good huh?). The less we use NO, the more effective it will be.

But here’s the question is: Have they actually had the opportunity to really learn what it is that you want them to-do? Dogs need plenty of consistent learning practise.  To teach a dog to “not jump” we need to teach them to “keep 4 paws on the ground”; to teach them to “not pull” we need to teach them that “be at my leg” is great.

If we haven’t taught them what’s right, is it really fair to punish them when they actually just don’t know any better?

If you do use more active punishment, then please just stop for a moment and think about how you are affecting your dog and how you’re affecting the relationship that you may be having with them. The recent reports from the BVA (British Veterinary Association) stand clearly against shock collars. No matter what people may think of their effectiveness, the stress of the shock remains long after the actual shock.

Of course teaching dogs can sometimes be quite complex. To get a better understanding of how to effectively train your dog and resolve any behaviour problems without punishment, please do look at

First Published in The Northern Times, 1st Dec 2017. Author Anna Patfield

If you'd like to read more about how dogs think and learn, please read this free e-book Dogz Thinkz Differentz