It’s the age old debate when it comes to dog training: positive rewards or corrective punishment. Today we are going to show you how gentle dog training techniques are not only better, but they will make you a better dog mom.
You’ve seen the zappers, the prong collars and the electric fences. If you’re like me, they make you nervous. But when your dog is driving you a little crazy they start to look tempting. Back away from the ultrasonic dog bark zapper and hear me out for a second.
How Dogs Learn
Last week we kicked off our new dog training series with dog psychology and how dogs learn. We talked about learning and conditioning which is related to rewards and punishments.
Basically, the general idea for these two sides is that when a dog does a good behavior, he deserves to be rewarded. If he does the opposite, he should be “corrected,” which is a fancy, less guilt laden way of saying “punished.”
Proponents of rewards based dog training often determine what appeals to their dogs the best (it can be food, treats, affection, praise, attention, or even toys), then use these to help motivate their dog to behave properly. Of course, the rewards are only given when the dog behaves correctly. Any misbehavior will result to the lack of treats.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are people who believe that the way to instill the right behaviors in their dogs is to scare them into behaving. People who advocate punishment based training often promote the use of shock collars, prong collars, and/or physical or verbal punishment in order to get their dogs in line.
That being said, which one of these two camps is more effective in training your dog to become a good doggie?
Part two of the question is which camp allows you to have the kind of relationship you want with your dog?
Part three of this question is just as important. Which one of these two camps allow you to be the kind of person you want to be?
Camp Dog Punishment
Let’s face it. When your dog messes up, it’s hard to keep your cool about it. Especially if you’re still a new dog parent, and the misbehavior has led to the destruction of something pretty valuable (I’m still thinking about all those chewed up shoes and I’m tearing up).
Your first instinct is to yell at your dog, point out their transgression, and hope that they make the connection for it not to happen again.
But how well does that actually work?
Apart from making your dog look scared out of her wits and putting the fear of God (or dog mama) in her heart, it doesn’t accomplish anything in the long run.
Here’s a newsflash: Dogs Don’t Speak English (at least mine don’t!) You can yell at your dog until you’re blue in the face and they won’t understand what the deal is.
Despite the fact that there was an observable difference between reprimanding a dog before and after a misbehavior was done, the general consensus afterwards was that reprimanding a dog does not guarantee that the misbehavior will not be repeated.
Granted, catching them just before the act and stopping them then will most likely be effective, but how often do we catch our dogs before they mess up, right?
Also, the further the time interval between the time your dog misbehaved and when you reprimand them for what they did, the less effective it is. The only thing it does is scare them and make them even more fearful of the entire activity instead of just when it’s done wrong.
Even worse, people in camp punishment have also employed shock and prong collars to introduce pain into the equation. The idea is that associating the negative feeling of getting shocked or the painful feeling of the prongs against their skin would be enough to stop dogs from misbehaving or pulling on their leash while on a walk.
As we have mentioned previously, would you use a shock collar on your beloved dog if you wouldn’t wear one yourself for a personal weight loss program?
Remember, that look on your dog’s face may look like guilt to us humans, but it’s actually more of fear. And not fear because they recognize the error of their ways, rather fear because of the negative feelings that your yelling or physical swatting are producing.
I know a lot of dog owners (some of my family members included) whose instinct is to shove a dog’s face into the mess that they created (whether by pee, poop, or destructive chewing) then yelling “BAD DOG!” really loudly.
But while I and my family have recognized that this method is never really effective, other people haven’t. And it’s still a pretty common occurrence in pet owning households, sadly.
But the thing is, why should dog owners resort to these inhumane methods when they can treat their dogs better, with more effective results?
Camp Dog Rewards
Meanwhile, there are people who train their dogs by encouraging good behavior with rewards. As we’ve already mentioned before, the idea of a reward can vary from dog to dog, and only by knowing what makes your dog tick (not ‘flea’ ha ha get it) can this method be effective.
The extent to which punishment is given in this type of training method is the mere lack or absence of a reward. Attention, at the very least, can be considered as some form of reward.
So basically, you discourage misbehaviors by ignoring them. But when your dog performs well, then you give them a reward to encourage the reoccurrence of the behavior.
For example, your dog begs for treats while you’re at the dinner table. Instead of encouraging the behavior by giving them what they want, you ignore them and only feed them when it’s time to eat.
If your dog was patient while waiting for their meal, you can reward them with praise or extra cuddle time (or dessert, whatever floats your dog’s boat).
So as an alternative to prong collars, let’s say your dog likes to pull on the leash when you’re out for a walk. Camp Rewards would tell you to simply stop walking until your dog calms down and rewarding them when they do. Camp Punishment would encourage the discomfort that your dog will feel while pulling because that’s what the prong collar is designed to do.
No Man’s (or Dog’s) Land: Is There A Middle Ground?
Now you’re probably wondering, does that mean everyone that uses a shock collar or ultrasonic bark zapper is a horrible human being? Absolutely not!
We are not Judgey McJudgersons here at Good Doggies Online. Remember, our dogs (and our lives in general!) are far from perfect. But we have made the decision that we don’t want to use those things on our dogs.
As one of our commenters has previously enabled us to see, sometimes punishment methods like shock collars can be used in a responsible way. Does that mean I’m going to do it? No.
Bottom line, we want to be the best doggie parents and human beings we can be.
Here at GoodDoggies, we believe that gentle dog training techniques make you a better pet parent. The truth is that punishment causes more problems than it fixes. It can affect your dog’s temperament and behaviors in the long run.
You wouldn’t want to set out to turn your dog’s misbehavior for the better, only to end up making it worse. Plus, nobody wants to be a dog bully, right?
What camp are you in? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. We love hearing from you!
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