Consequences of punishing a dog


 From a behavioral point of view, punishment is any action that can cause a decrease in the frequency, duration, or intensity of a particular behavior. In this sense, more traditional dog education relies on the systematic punishment of all those behaviors deemed inappropriate or undesirable with the aim of the dog learning to prevent them altogether. Although this methodology may appear to be effective in the short term, we must know that it entails a large number of negative consequences for the animal, both physically and psychologically, affecting its well-being and reducing its quality of life.

If you are considering incorporating a furry dog into the family or you already live with a dog and would like to learn more about dog education, in this dog57 article, we explain what types of punishment exist and what the consequences of punishing a dog are.

Types of punishment in dogs

In the field of dog breeding, both reinforcements and punishments fall into two large groups: positive and negative. These terms can generate some confusion because we are used to associating “positive” with something good and “negative” with something bad, but in this case that is not what it means.

The differences between one type of punishment and the other are as follows:

Positive Punishment: The term "positive" refers to the fact that immediately after a dog performs a behavior that is undesirable to us (such as barking), an unpleasant stimulus is added to its environment to reduce the frequency, duration, or intensity of that behavior. Examples include physical blows, sharp pulling of a leash, screaming and threats, or the activation of an electrical impulse collar.

Negative Punishment: "Negative" refers to the fact that the moment a dog performs a behavior we consider undesirable (such as barking), a pleasant stimulus is removed from its environment to reduce the frequency, duration, or intensity of the behavior. For example, take food, take a game, stop paying attention or finish a walk in the park.

What happens when you physically punish your dog?

All dogs have, from time to time, behaviors that annoy or annoy us that we want them to stop doing, such as pulling on the leash while walking or barking too hard every time the doorbell rings.

It is natural for us to want our fur to suppress a behavior on certain occasions, and in fact, behavior extinction is part of many behavior modification programs.

The most important thing, in this case, is to know how to properly recognize why our dog is behaving the way it does and to gradually and emotionally work to reduce the behavior in question, always respecting the physical, emotional, and social integrity of the animal, without causing it to cause it. It harms or negatively affects his level of well-being.

For this, it is necessary to know what the consequences of the use and abuse of penalties can be in the field of dog breeding.

The emergence and exacerbation of insecurities, fears, and phobias

On many occasions, what we consider bad behavior is nothing more than a normal reaction of our dog to something that generates some feeling of insecurity or scares him and does not know how to manage it otherwise.

 If you, as a teacher, punish this reaction, it may make their fear worse (or appear if they didn't have them before) and end up developing a major phobia that will seriously affect your emotional health.

  This can happen, for example, if you scold your dog every time he barks at dogs that pass on the street or if you use a bark collar.

 If your dog is already feeling agitated or insecure in the presence of other dogs, adding a punishment to this context can cause the stimulus in question to be perceived as something negative and/or threatening, adding to his anxiety.

Increased frustration and confusion

When the dog returns home, all family members must agree to establish coherent rules for coexistence and be compatible with them. Well, if this does not happen, the animal can end up confused and stressed.

This can happen, for example, when some days the guardian yells at him and threatens him to sit on the sofa while on other days he reinforces him for it.

In the same way, regular punitive behaviors that are perfectly normal for a dog (such as digging, eating street food, chasing cats, or rolling around in the mud) without offering any alternative action, can be very frustrating for the animal, because it will.

He doesn't understand why he's being scolded, so he won't learn anything from this situation other than to avoid seeing him when he's doing certain behaviors.

The development of stress and anxiety problems

One of the biggest mistakes that usually occurs when punishing a dog is to do this from an anthropomorphic perspective, i.e. to think of the dog as understanding the reason for the chastisement as if it were another human being.

  Dogs do not speak our language, so often they do not know why we are so angry with them and this is something that generates a lot of stress and frustration.

 Systematically punish behaviors that are perfectly normal for them (such as digging holes, eating street food, chasing cats, or getting sucked into the mud) without even offering an alternative course of action or reprimanding them for something they did a long time ago (such as As when we came home from work and found a mess) They are examples of situations that they will not understand and will not learn anything about. Therefore, if you are wondering whether it is beneficial to punish a dog, the answer is no.

Appearance or increase in threatening or aggressive behavior

Learning to recognize and interpret dog language is one of the most important aspects when it comes to owning a dog because ignoring the way these animals communicate can lead us to experience undesirable situations.

 In general, when a dog feels uncomfortable in a context or with the behavior of a particular individual, such as his guardian, he will tell you through his body language and facial expressions. At first, he will make quiet signals such as looking away, yawning, or licking his lips to tell you to move away, and if these movements are ignored, they will increase in intensity, and she will continue to show threatening signals, such as growing or puckering her snout.

This, and part of dogs' natural language, is misunderstood by many guardians, who scold their dogs if they grumble at them or show their teeth at them. By punishing these cues, the animal feels that they are unhelpful, so it can choose to turn directly to aggression as a form of expression, which can be dangerous.

Weakness of the bond between the dog and the guardian

One of the most obvious consequences of systematic and abusive punishment is the destruction of the relationship between the dog and its guardian. A dog who does not feel understood and who is often punished will not trust his guardian and will show a cautious attitude towards him. Fear of being punished is the reason why many dogs avoid, for example, returning to their parents when called or performing certain behaviors without knowing they are being watched.

  In addition, the anxiety that lives in an environment of uncertainty assumes for them in many cases can cause problems such as stereotypes or learned helplessness to emerge.

Learned helplessness and careless behavior

Learned helplessness is a state of pessimism similar to depression., which an animal can develop when it feels that there is nothing it can do to improve the situation in which it finds itself, so it "gives up" and stops responding to stimuli.

  Dogs can suffer from learned helplessness when they are often subjected to inconsistent, incoherent, painful, or incomprehensible punishment. Assuming they will be punished for their behavior, they stop doing it and become indifferent. At this point, the Guardians consider that their training has been effective and that they have been able to successfully teach their dogs, when in fact what they have done has caused them so much fear that they do not dare to react, something that seriously harms their behavior and their health and well-being.

Physical injuries caused by instruments of punishment

When the punishments are physical and are carried out through harmful tools, they can cause injuries to the animal which in many cases require urgent veterinary attention.

This is the case with electric shock collars, which can cause severe burns, or suffocation or notched collars, which can cause tracheal collapse and suffocation.

Is it okay to punish a dog?

After reviewing the consequences of punishment for dogs as we know them, we can conclude that there is no point in punishing our dog because this act will only lead to fear, frustration, and mistrust.

For this reason, many dog parents make statements such as "I hit my dog and now he's afraid of me." In these cases, it is important to realize the mistake, not to repeat the mistake, to gain the dog's trust again, and, above all, to learn to use tools and techniques that respect the animal.

Can you train a dog without punishment?

Fortunately, today there are both educators and kennel professionals who completely reject the use of tools or techniques that can cause psychological or physical harm to the animal and choose a training and education methodology that is based on scientific evidence and about the animals.

Some approaches, such as cognitive-emotional training, focus on studying, understanding, and enhancing dogs' physical, cognitive, social, and emotional abilities to help them better manage their environment.

 Behavior modification, in this case, is carried out through highly planned, empathy-based exercises, which are adapted to each dog's particular needs and that seek to address the cause of the problem and not its behavioral manifestations. Giving the animal autonomy and the ability to make decisions.

 In other words, from this perspective, for example, the goal is not to "eliminate the barking," but to find and act upon the cause of the barking.

These and other updated and respected methodologies with dogs do not have to eliminate the use of, for example, some negative punishments, but they use them in a way that is understandable to the animal, does not cause any kind of physical or emotional harm, and is always accompanied by intensely reinforced alternatives to the action.

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