Hitting, spanking, slapping, and beating a dog is sometimes used as a form of dog discipline or dog punishment.
After all, biting a dog’s ear worked for Cuba Gooding Jr. in the movie Snow Dogs. Will such pain based dog discipline techniques work for us too? To answer this question, we must consider how dogs learn.
Dogs learn through conditioning; they repeat behaviors that get them good results and stop behaviors that get them bad results. Based on this, there are two schools of thought for stopping problem dog behaviors – reward obedience training and aversive obedience training.
Hitting, Spanking, Slapping, and Beating a Dog
Hitting, spanking, slapping, and beating a dog are all aversive techniques. Pain is delivered to sensitive areas of the dog, such as his ear or muzzle when he performs a bad behavior.
The argument for this type of dog discipline is that the pain will discourage a dog from repeating bad behaviors, because every time he does it, something bad (i.e. pain) happens to him.
A big problem with aversive training, however, is that it is too personal, and there is no good way to redirect the punishment.
Our dog knows that the pain originates from us, and is not a natural result of his actions.
As a consequence, our dog may end up learning the wrong lessons, including:
- Hitting, slapping, and biting is a fun game that my owner plays with me. Let me try playing it with him, and with others. A dog may arrive at this conclusion when the hit/slap/spank is not delivered with enough force. Too much force, however, may result in fear aggression.
- A person’s hand or face coming toward me is a bad thing. I should run away from people, or bite the hand or face that is a threat to me.
- My owner or a person coming toward me means pain. I should stay away from people, or keep them away by growling and biting.
If we do not deliver the pain consistently, with good timing, and with the proper force, our dog may get confused as to why he is getting disciplined. He may become fearful and stressed because he is unsure how he can stop the pain from recurring.
Hitting, spanking, slapping, and beating a dog may lead to even more behavioral issues, including fear aggression as well as submissive urination.
For these reasons, using physical techniques to discipline a dog is not very good dog kung fu.
If Not Hitting, Spanking, Slapping, and Beating, Then What?!
If hitting, spanking, slapping, and beating a dog does not work, then how can we discipline our dogs and teach them right from wrong?
How can we get our dogs to behave and not engage in destructive behaviors?
The answer lies in the other school of dog discipline, namely reward techniques.
Contrary to common belief, reward based dog discipline does not just involve giving food to our dog. Rather, it allows us to gain pack leadership through the control of resources.
We may not realize this, but we already control all of our dog’s resources. For example, we decide when he gets to walk, when he gets to eat, what and how much he gets to eat, when he gets to play, what toys he gets to play with, when he has to go to sleep, what he can chew on, and much more. All we need to do is teach our dog this fact -
He is NOT in control, WE are.
For example, if my dog jumps on me and bites my hand during feeding time, I tell him that this behavior is unacceptable by using a no-mark (say No or Ack-ack). Then I ignore him, and he does not get his food until he has calmed down.
If he continues with his bad behavior, I say Time-out and remove him to a time-out area. This teaches him that if he cannot behave around people, then he does not get to be with people.
We respond to all other bad behaviors in a similar way – by restricting our dog’s access to his most desired resources, and only giving him rewards when he has earned them through good behavior.
Different dog behavioral issues will involve different tactics, but the overall strategy is one of resource control, and proper management.
Does Hitting, Slapping, Spanking, and Beating a Dog Work?
It may, but it is not the most effective type of dog discipline.
There are many difficulties and risks that may cause our dog’s behavior to degrade, rather than improve. Using it to stop one problem behavior, may inadvertently cause five other bad dog behaviors to crop up.
In contrast, reward based dog discipline is safer because there is little danger of our dog becoming fearful, aggressive, or stressed. We are not delivering any pain to him, but simply withholding the rewards that he has failed to earn.
Reward based discipline encourages our dog to figure out how he can get in our good books, because that is the quickest way to get what he wants most. On the other hand, aversive dog discipline encourages a dog to avoid us because there may be pain involved.
Ultimately, reward training allows us to forge a stronger bond with our dog, and makes him into a responsible canine, who works for what he wants.
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