Spanking, beating, and hitting 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. Therefore, will such pain based 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
- They 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.
Is It Bad to Beat or Hit a Dog?
Spanking, beating, and hitting 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 undesirable actions. Every time our dog does something bad, he gets an unpleasant result (pain), which will hopefully dampen his resolve to perform the same behavior.
However, the problem with aversive training, is that it is risky, 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 pain 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 with good timing, with the proper force, and in exactly the right circumstance, our dog may get confused as to why he is getting punished. He may become fearful and stressed, because he is unsure how he can stop the pain from recurring.
As a result, spanking, beating, and hitting a dog may lead to even more behavioral issues, including fear aggression as well as submissive urination.
For these reasons, using physical techniques to punish a dog, is not very good dog kung fu.
If Not Beating or Hitting a Dog, Then What?!
If beating or hitting a dog does not work, then how can we teach our dogs 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 based techniques. Some positive based authors that I like include Patricia McConnell, Karen Pryor, and Suzanne Clothier. Contrary to what some may say, reward based methods does not just involve “giving food to our dog”. Rather, it allows us to gain pack leadership through the proper 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. Then I ignore him, and he does not get his food, until he has calmed down. In this way, he learns that –
- Waiting calmly for his food in a down position = Get food quickly,
- Jumping and biting = Food preparation stops.
If he continues with his bad behavior, I say Time-out, and I 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.
But Dogs Hit, Bite, and Physically Correct Each Other …
A common argument used to justify physical corrections, is that our dogs do that to each other, therefore, it must be natural and right.
It is true that dogs will sometimes hit and bite each other as a warning, or to correct behavior. Dogs also hit and bite during play. They are able to do this, because they have very good control of the placement and force of their bites.
However, dogs are not humans and *we* are not dogs. We do not have the same physical strengths or control as our dog. We do not have sharp teeth or claws, we cannot run very fast, and our jaws are not very strong.
This is why it is a very bad idea to physically challenge stray or loose dogs. Logic dictates that we do not wrestle, hit, or physically engage with unknown dogs, that may be aggressive. Similarly, we should not slap, beat, or hit our own dog either. Rather than do a bad job at pretending to be a dog, we should play to our human strengths.
As a human,
- We can open and close doors.
- We can drive to the store and buy food, toys, and other good stuff.
- We can open sealed bags, cans, bottles, and more.
- We can reason, build, and develop long-term plans.
In essence, our human abilities give us control of *all* the things that our dog needs or desires. This makes us into natural leaders, because by controlling the pack’s resources, we control the pack.
Finally, when a dog physically corrects another dog, the other dog may decide to fight back.
A puppy may allow an adult dog to correct him initially, but when he grows up, he may learn to respond in-kind with aggression. For this reason and more, I do not allow my dogs to physically correct or bully each other. As pack leader, I set the rules, and I enforce them through the control of resources. If there are any conflicts, my dogs will alert me. I will then do my best to resolve the conflict in a fair and consistent way, which does not involve any hitting, biting, or puncture wounds.
Just because a dog may sometimes hit and bite other dogs, does not mean that hitting and biting is good, effective, or even particularly humane. The assumption or assertion that physical punishment is better because our dogs do it, is a logical fallacy. In fact, there are many things that dogs do to each other and to other animals, that we need to manage, redirect, and retrain. This includes –
- A dog’s drive to hunt neighborhood cats,
- A dog’s instinct to guard resources (with aggression if necessary),
- A dog’s inclination to bully a weaker dog,
- A dog’s impulse to fight-back, and more.
Does Beating or Hitting a Dog Work?
Pain based techniques may stop problem behaviors in the short term, 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 addition, the effect of beating or hitting a dog may degrade over time, as our dog gets habituated to the pain.
In contrast, reward based methods are 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.
- Aversive dog discipline, on the other hand, encourages a dog to avoid us because there may be pain involved.
Ultimately, resource based training allows us to forge a stronger bond with our dog, and makes him into a responsible canine, who works for what he wants.
The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
~~ [Mahatma Gandhi]
We have had dogs all our entire lives, and all generations of our family, has never hit, spanked, or beaten a dog. Even once!
Reward training is the way to go, and we did it before it even had a name.
A puppy who is biting can be discouraged by the human being chewed upon, by squeeling loud. It reminds the pup that she is playing too rough.
A dog doing something wrong can be discouraged by turning your back on her.
I could go on forever here with advice, but there are training books better than I could ever say. And written by gentle people who train dogs.
It is different for adult dogs who have been adopted from bad situations, that takes a different kind of ‘tough love’.
But if you want a gentle and loving dog, dont hit them. Same goes for little children, hitting them only makes it worse. Pour love and gentleness onto your kids and pets, and you will be rewarded.
I have a girl Akita Rylie and a boy Husky Maverick, similar to you, they are great dogs but the Husky will not stop pulling and making it very hard to walk them both, apart from the obvious any other ideas?
We have a dog scooter but cant run them on hot days.
Thanks Sian x
Yeah, I walk each Husky separately. When out together, they both want to be lead dog. 😀
To properly walk them both, I would have to be a lot more strict, and give them a lot less freedom. Even then, it would be difficult to manage things if they spot a deer, and their prey-drive goes into high gear.
Hugs to Rylie and Maverick! Love those names.
We have a 11 month old yellow lab. She’s a very sweet dog, and I don’t think that she has an aggressive bone in her body. When I walk her with a body harness, she’s always sniffing at things, wrapping the chord around things, and basically stalling. So I have to frequently tug the chord and/or say “Come on!” Is this acceptable? She seems to love going for walks, and she doesn’t seem offended by this.
I’m not the owner of this dog, people in my extended family are. I get the feeling that our blonde labrador has no clue as to why she’s sometimes corporately disciplined with a slap to her side/face area or a whip with her leash. But I’m not exactly sure. She understands the traditions/customs of many of our institutions (i.e. night time, going out to urinate, certain games, going for walks) and therefore, she probably has an idea as to why she’s being hit.
Our dog is a good dog. I just want her to not do certain behaviors, like destroy things with her mouth, or slow down our run by always losing her focus and sniffs at everything.
Please give me advice.
In terms of chewing, what has worked well for my dogs is to teach them what are acceptable things to chew on and what are not. When they chew on something they shouldn’t, I just calmly non-mark them (Ack-ack), and redirect them onto a chew toy. If they redirect on the chew toy, then I praise them very well and reward them with attention and sometimes treats. If they do not, then I just body block them away from the non-chew area, and get them to do some obedience commands. Afterward, I give them something acceptable to chew on.
Bite inhibition training is also very helpful. Being a Lab, she should pick up bite inhibition quickly.
As for sniffing, most dogs love to sniff. They are built for it. I use a 6 foot leash to walk my dogs and not a flexi-leash. You get more control by using 6 foot leash. Here are some of my experiences on leash training my dogs.
One of my neighbors also loves to run. She tells me that she walks her dogs separately, and only runs on her own.
Our dog growls at us when we correct him. What can we do to stop him from growling?
When you say “correct him” what do you mean? What do you correct him for and what specific technique do you use to correct him?
Sometimes aversive corrections can cause aggression in dogs because of fear or stress.
The dog would have to realized that the pain it feels when the owner bites is the same as when he or she bites. The dog would have to have sympathy for causing the owner this pain. This is expecting the dog to have a perception of other people’s feelings outside of itself. It’s just too much to expect from a dog. It’s just not how their brains work.
Purposefully causing pain to dog or human as punishment hardly ever works. I myself do not believe in punishment at all. Maybe not in dogs, but in humans punishing one behavior with something like grounding and time-out, while it may lead to better behavior for the moment, only causes the child to become frustrated and confused.
The only time I really ‘hit’ Lupin was during potty training. Just a little tap hard enough to get his attention. It wasn’t to hurt or punish, but just to interrupt him from taking a pee or poo in my floor long enough for me to get him outside. Poor Lupie was just 6 weeks old with a tiny bladder when we got him, but as soon as he developed the muscles to control himself (at about four months old) he never had another accident in the house.
Good to see you! I just got a Sibe puppy so I am being reminded of the challenges of potty training. The rain is definitely not helping.
Puppy is fun, small, and fiercely energetic! I guess I forgot how much work it is to care for a new puppy. On the bright side, it gives me a lot of new material to write about and cute puppy pictures to go along with it. 😀
How is Lupin? Give him a big hug from me and some big sloppy kisses from Sephy, Shania, and puppy Lara.
Your pack is growing! Sephy must feel outnumbered by all the girl Huskies! I think the key to potty training is to be there for the first few months. We had Lupin chained to us until he was potty trained, so that no accident, or accident-to-be, went unnoticed. It’s also a bad idea to just let the dog go out into the yard without you, because then they might relate -person there = bad to go, person absent = alright to go. You probably know this stuff yourself, though!
Yeah, I think 3 furry ones is my limit. 😀
Your potty training tips are right on. During the first couple of days I would sometimes take a quick bathroom break when puppy was sleeping – WRONG! Puppy decided that that was a good time for her to take a bathroom break as well.
Now I do what you say and keep puppy chained to me at all times. Can’t even leave her for 1 second or she will be up to something. 😀
The only downside I found with keeping Lupin with me at all time was that he developed separation anxiety. He just didn’t know what to do without me there. I remember the first night he was upgraded from the cat carrier in my room to the actual dog kennel in the living room. (He could barely fit into the cat carrier by then) I knew he could hold his bladder through the night, but he cried for quite some time anyway, and maybe some nights after. I learned the hard way that it is not the best thing to try and quiet him when he was whining, because then he learned that whining got me to come out and (perhaps) open the cage. We just had to ignore him until he stopped.
Now we have his kennel in storage, and he hopefully sits at the door whenever we leave just in case we decide he can come.
I don’t think I could have asked for a better dog.
It seems like it’s easier to raise a pup with other dogs around, because puppies learn how to behave from other dogs probably more so than humans. I know my old dog Ursa, as the story goes, never had an accident in the house because she followed her mama’s lead.
That is true in some respects. For example puppy Lara learned from the other dogs that she needs to Sit and calmly wait before she gets any food. She didn’t seem to get the potty thing tho, so that I really had to supervise.
Also, when there are multiple dogs, additional steps must be taken in terms of introducing puppy to the other dogs, making sure that play does not get too rough, making sure that they don’t compete for resources, etc. So there are additional issues to deal with in a multi-dog household.
Sam V says
My fiance and I use the aversive dog discipline to house train all our previous dogs. It eventually works after they associate peeing in the house with pain. We recently got a 6 month old pup and have been using this technique. But afterwards I was concerned about her submissive behavior. We not only got our new dog as a companion, but as our protector too. After reading your input, which was very useful, I’ve decided to use a different way of discipline, so that she won’t be so submissive. Thank you so much for all the information and actually having an understanding and answers about different techniques to discipline a dog instead of just judging those who use different techniques. Other websites that I have read don’t give real answers, they just tell you not to hit your dog, then make you seem like a bad person for doing so. I guess I and a lot of other people associate discipline of a dog to discipline of some of our parents, cuz when I was young and did something wrong it would be my ass. Your input has helped me have a better understanding of how to discipline my dog and still have a loving relationship too. Thanks again.
Thanks for your comment. Yeah I started out using aversive methods as well. After about 5-6 months, it wasn’t working out well for either me or my dog so I started looking around for something else. At that time, I definitely got hit by a lot of judgement from people of both sides. The aversive people were telling me I was doing it all wrong and the reward people were telling me shame shame for using aversive methods – LOL. I guess everybody thinks they are dog experts when it comes to someone else’s dog.
Yeah my mom did aversive discipline and my dad did reward discipline so I actually got to see both in action. Reward discipline worked a lot better on me as well 😀
I am glad you found the article to be helpful. Give us all updates on your puppy when you can.
I do require my Shiba to do something before being rewarded. However she is chewing carpet, television chords, computer wires, the couch. Pretty much anything but her toys. I don’t wanna hit her and the ack ack is not working. I have gotten a water bottle and occasionally spray her in the face. That only works for the time being, by the time the mist dries she is right back to what she was doing only mere seconds ago. The spray stuff is unbearable for me. It gets on my hands and I can taste it on my lips and it becomes hard for me to breathe. She is not a bad puppy just curious. What am I doing wrong. I am with her all day. We walk to expel energy, I play with her toys with her but the carpet seems to be the most interesting thing on her agenda. Please Help!
Two things that helped with my Shiba during his early puppy chewing –
1. Redirection – I would non-mark him (ack-ack or No) for doing the action, and then get him to do something else, usually some obedience commands and then reward him for it by letting him work on some interactive food toy.
2. Time-outs – As you have noted, Shibas can be extremely stubborn, so sometimes, he would just want to keep going back to the curtains or whatever. When he tries again, I will body block him away from the area, and get him to go his mat and work on his toy. If he does not comply, I put him on a short time-out (few minutes) in the extremely boring (make sure there is nothing in there to chew) laundry room.
If he goes back to chewing again as soon as he comes out, then I put him back into time-out for a slightly longer period of time and so on.
In this way he learns that
Chewing on carpet = don’t get to be in the carpet area.
Not chewing on carpet and doing what you want = fun interactive food toys.
Ahhhhh, Marcus has the exact same problem as Mahogany’s Shiba! He’s all up on the carpet corners, box corners, chair legs, table legs, and the occasional electrical cord. And this is all happening while toy after toy is after to him. I have been trying the non-mark (I use ah-ah from watching Victoria! But it doesn’t sound as stern as a firm no. Do you use both since you have described them both here? Do you have a preference?), but it only works sometimes because he is caught off guard and surprised. I’m not sure if he’s caught on that it means no-no behavior yet (is there a way to make sure he knows that? I’m kind of worries he’s associating it with good things since I usually have to lure him away with a treat. Also, I find it hard to follow up with a positive thing for him to do immediately afterward since he’s right onto the next thing that would warrant an ah-ah. Tips?). But your time-out idea sounds phenomenal.
Update: I’ve tried the time-out when he was incessantly chewing on the table even after trying ah-ah, drop, body block. It got him good for a bit but then he chewed again. After 2-3 time-outs, he went suuuuuuper hyper and dashed around the house, and he is also avoiding the path to the bathroom I used to time-out him. But that bathroom is next to the door, so I have to reach way over to get the main door open before he’ll head down that path. Did you go through this stage with your dogs and is there a way to make it so that he calms down but doesn’t resent it? Please do let me know if I made a mistake somewhere in handling the situation!
For a non-mark I usually use Ack-ack because it is more unique than No. I say “no” a bunch during normal conversation, and that may be confusing to the dogs. By using a unique word, the dogs know that every time I say Ack-ack, if they do not stop, then there is always a consequence for their actions.
Consistency, I have found, is very important in dog training. Every time I non-mark, I always follow through with an action if the pups do not listen and do not stop. I usually respond in the same way for the same behavior. In this way, they learn that if they dig holes in the yard, they lose their backyard privileges and have to come into the house. If they bite each other too hard, play stops and they have to do obedience commands, etc. Also, I make sure to start small and then slowly escalate the consequence only if the dog escalates his behavior.
In general, we want to only a reward a good behavior. As you say, if we reward undesirable behaviors then the dog will keep repeating that behavior.
When Sephy bites on furniture, I non-mark him and give him an alternate command (that he knows very well), e.g. Go to Your Mat. If he complies with that command, then I reward him for doing what I asked. Often, I would treat him, and also play with him so he learns that following what I say is very rewarding.
If he does not comply then I slowly take away his freedoms. First I body block him away, then I do an obedience session with him. If he ignores me and goes back to biting then I take him to time-out.
In this way he learns that if he follows what I say then he gets some really great rewards. If he continues doing undesirable stuff then he loses his freedom and his access to people.
Try slowly increasing the time he stays in time-out. Also, I always ask my dogs to do some simple obedience commands before they come out of time-out. Then when they come out, I hold onto their drag lead for a bit, so they only have limited freedom for a while.
In general, I have found that it is better to be more strict and have more rules in the beginning. Then the rules can later be relaxed as the puppy matures.
Yeah, mostly with my Shiba Inu. He was a very stubborn dog, even as a puppy. We had some difficult times – but it got better. 😀
In terms of resentment, that is a very good question. I think that is why I usually try to set my dogs up for success. In this way, I can reward them and they are less likely to do something that is undesirable to me. However, there will be times when puppy does something that is against the house rules.
Puppy is not going to enjoy losing his freedom or having to follow strict house rules – but this is necessary for safety, health, and happiness of the entire family/pack. In any stable and healthy relationship, there has to be give and take. Puppy must learn that he can’t just take, sometimes, he must give as well.
Here are some of the things that helped with my Shiba Inu –
Thank you so much for providing such thorough and helpful answers to my ten thousand questions, same for the answers you provided for my comments on your other posts as well! It definitely gives me much more determination and hope to get advice from someone who went through the same troubles as opposed to just how-to-do-this articles online that makes everything sound like they are easy! 🙂
I disgree with this article. I am not critizing your article but hitting and slapping any animals I believe it makes them more aggressive. I can see if your in a situation where a dog attacks you but still there are other ways then violence. Always carry maze or a squirt bottle with with water mix with pepper or another solution but hitting, spanking, beating a dog, it is humane and violent behaviour in mankind.
Hello Starbug, I am actually very much against hitting and slapping dogs. If that does not come through in the article – please let me know which sections are unclear.
So in your original scenario, if you are standing there talking to your neighbor and your dog gets fixated on one of his cats, what is the most appropriate course of action? From my experience, the easiest course of action to prevent the situation from escalating further is to simply walk away, but then you have to break up your conversation with the neighbor which is bad for you because the dog has prevented you from interacting with someone. Also, that doesn’t teach him to stop fixating on things.
I’m not trying to criticize your article, I agree that hitting out of anger is counterproductive, but what would you do in that situation? Using the reward based training method, I would guess that you had taught the dog some command before hand like, “leave it” or whatever. But from my experience with my persistent high energy dog, when his mind is in that state, he doesn’t respond to commands. You can snap him out of it by stomping your feet or snapping your fingers, but he goes right back into it. I’ve tried body blocking but that makes him more persistent.
From my understanding, you have to snap him out of it before he goes into that state of mind, but it seems to keep him out of that mindset, you have to be every bit as persistent as he is. Sometimes that’s impractical when we’re trying to have a conversation with someone.
No I don’t think it is criticism at all – it is a very good question and I always enjoy your comments 🙂
I think that the best thing to do is to slowly desensitize my dog to cats. To do it right, I would have to get help from someone who has a very sedate cat. Have the cat stay with his owner a far distance away from my dog, and then slowly move my dog towards the cat. I would stop every one or two steps, get my dog’s attention, and if he gives it to me, I will treat him and move on.
Once I get to a point where my dog is too excited/obsessed/engaged to pay me any attention, I move back and redo the exercise. Then I will just stop at my dog’s `reactive’ boundary and just let him get comfortable with the idea of cat. I will do obedience commands with him from time to time and treat him accordingly.
If I keep doing this several times every day for perhaps a few months, my dog will get desensitized to the cat, and no longer get excited over it. After all, it has become routine – we go look at the cat, my dog sits nicely, and we have a good time doing obedience commands. Once it becomes routine, I can start decreasing the distance, introducing other cats, and letting the cat move.
As you see, doing this properly will take a fair amount of time and resources.
Currently what I do with my dog is to stop as soon as I see a random cat and try and get my dog’s attention. If he does not give it to me, I move back and keep moving back until he is paying attention to me again. When that happens I let him stop and look at the cat as long as he is willing to give me his attention when I ask for it. Sometimes I will let him sit there for a good long while. After a bit my dog usually relaxes, the cat at that point has fallen asleep, so we just sit there and enjoy the weather.
When I need to go home, I just move my dog along.
Now this scenario is not as good as the first scenario because I am not in control of the random cat. Sometimes the cat will start getting frisky, and that will get my dog going again. When that happens I move away from the cat until my dog is willing to be calm again. There are also some cats that will move towards me and my dog. I will usually remove my dog totally away from these kamikaze cats and try my best to avoid them in the future.
In this way, my dog is hopefully learning that if he stays calm he gets to look at the cat but if he gets too excited then he has to move away.
My Shiba Inu is actually a lot more calm around cats because my previous neighbors had cats and we used to sit on our lawn and just hang out with the neighbor’s cats. My Siberian has never had this experience so now I am trying to do it with the random cats we see while walking. I think we are making some progress.
When it comes to something that is so instinctual – there really are no quick fixes. Using physical force will often make the situation worse because then the dog is making very negative associations with cats. In addition, a physical correction may amp up the dog even more and get him into a frenzy. This happened to me before as well.
Great hub, Shiba! I really like how you explain the possible conclusions the dog can come to from getting his ear bitten – namely, thinking you’re cool with playing his kind of games on his kind of level. There is definitely a great potential danger there if he thinks his teeth can be used on a soft squishy human as a game!
I work with horses, and I’ve come across people who bite their horses as a punishment for the same reason – to “communicate at the horse’s level”. First of all, YUCK to a mouthful of hair, but second – how does biting nowhere near as hard as a horse can teach your horse not to bite you? And, getting your face that close to an angry horse is just begging to get retaliated against, especially when your eyes are up against the horse so you can’t see what’s coming. I’ve found that horses respond much better to body language and well-timed treats than they do to any physical punishment.
We need to use our “human” smarts to prevent disagreements from getting physical in the first place (oh, to how many other aspects of the world could we apply this?).
Wow – that’s really amazing that people do it to horses! Yeah I think that there are very many similarities between training dogs and horses. Even the whole dog whispering thing first came from horses. Btw, I really enjoyed your hubs on horses.
I really wonder where this "ear technique" came from. I was on Yahoo! Answers, and saw a bunch of people suggest to others that they do this, so I wanted to write something to try and convince them not to.
Definitely agree with you on the human smarts. Many interesting hubs there waiting to be written 🙂
Anti hitting solution
“We need to use our “human” smarts to prevent disagreements from getting physical in the first place (oh, to how many other aspects of the world could we apply this?).”
Oh I totally emphatically agree!!! Well said indeed