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]
First off I want to say thank you for such a wonderful site!
I need some advice on how to get my 9 month old male chihuahua to listen to me! I have tried everything I have read on the internet like putting him in a time-out spot when he does something wrong or won’t listen to me. I have also tried lightly tapping him with a rolled up newspaper and I have also tried the ignore technique along with lots of other things…nothing works!
When he sees my neighbors across the road he automatically starts barking and runs across the road to them stands 5 feet away and just keeps barking. No matter how many times I call his name, clap my hands or whistle for him to come he just keeps going won’t even turn back to look at me! I always have to go across the road and get him because he will never ever come back on his own when I call him to come. I talked to my neighbors and asked them to be friendly with him and that does not work either. He just wants to do what he wants to do and that’s it! He also chases people riding bikes and large trucks that make alot of noise ans runs into the woods barking at birds and what not. Nothing I say or do will change his course of action when hes doing something I don’t want him to do. The only time he listens is when hes not doing anything at all, I can call his name and say come and he comes right over wagging his tale, happy as can be.
People say to train him to do tricks to make him act better….how can I train him when he won’t listen to me at all? This is the most hard headed dog I have ever owned and I have owned about 7 dogs because I LOVE dogs! All my other dogs have learnt tricks and listen on command. I only have 2 dogs now, the one I’m talking about and another small dog that he gets along with very well.
I love my chihuahua with a passon like hes my own child. This is my first dog of this kind of breed and I have been told that chihuahua’s are naturally hard headed but I can’t and won’t give up. Please, can somebody help me with how to teach my chihuahua at least to stop doing what hes doing and come/listen to me? I live in the backwoods country so there’s not much traffic at all but I don’t like even taking any chances at all of him being hurt. I don’t want to tie him up to a chain either! He deserves freedom!
Thanks so much in advance!
Sounds like your dog has a pretty high prey drive, which can account for why he likes chasing moving things. Dogs with high prey drive will be harder to train to have good recall because their instinct will usually take over and they will be off like a shot.
Some things that have helped with my Sibes –
1. Desensitization exercises on trigger objects and events, e.g. people, bicycles, and people on skateboards.
2. I start small and take little steps. To train recall, I first start in my fully enclosed backyard where it is quiet and there are few distractions. Then I invite a friend over and do training with my friend there, ignoring the dog. At this point, I may use a long-line.
As my dog gets more comfortable with each situation, I slowly increase the challenge. Here is a good article from the ASPCA on a wide variety of recall training methods-
Here’s my problem with the whole “rewards” based modification. The dog knows it’s inappropriate behavior. When my dog does not greet me at the door, I know he has defecated inappropriately in the house. So, simply not giving him a treat doesn’t enforce the rules of the house – but neither does beating him or yelling at him (which I never did). He already knows he is bad. And when he does go outside, I make a parade out of it and he is rewarded. HE KNOWS NOT TO GO IN THE HOUSE. And thus the problem with my dog. If I am home, he can hold it easily 8-10 hours. If I go to work, max is 5 hours. But this also doesn’t point to separation anxiety. He would display that much earlier than 5 hours (and yes I have stood outside my house – once for 45 minutes and no whining/barking). He doesn’t chew or scratch either. Bugsy has one foot out the door. I love him, he’s very gentile and smart, but I love my 11 year old son on another level and won’t have him sitting on a urine-soaked couch because we can’t correct this dog’s behavior. I am considering a crate or diapers, but he’s 3 1/2. I’m willing to forge ahead, but he’s getting to be on a very “short leash”. I need to be able to know I can go to work for 8 hours and come home to a responsible dog or else I won’t have a job and he won’t be living with me anyway.
Some common reasons why dogs potty in the house-
1. They do not know they are not supposed to go in the house.
Dogs may sometimes look sheepish when we get home and are greeted with a potty mistake. However, they hang their head down, lick, or offer other sheepish gestures because they sense our frustration and anger. Therefore, they use appeasement gestures to try and calm us down. They don’t really know what in particular has made us angry, but simply that we are so.
It is very difficult to get the smell of urine out of some couches because it soaks deep inside. A dog can probably still smell it even if we cannot, which would encourage him to continue using it as a potty spot.
2. Stress and anxiety.
Not all dogs bark and scratch when they are anxious. One of my Sibes gets really quiet when she is anxious and goes to hide in the corner. My other Sibe paces when she is stressed. My Shiba will usually make noise, but when he is extremely stressed, for example at the vet, he may just shut down, become really quiet, and hope the door will magically open so he can leave.
3. Physical issue.
Some dogs may have urinary tract infection or some other physical issue that makes it difficult for them to control their bladder.
Crate your dog my pup can go all night in his crate with out weeing or pooping she goes out early on the morning and is rewarded with treat.
We do have the odd weeing but not much she is getting better but yes they know when they have done wrong so crsteing is good
Lyle Gorch says
My friend used to strike his dog when it fouled the kitchen floor. It never learnt not to, and when I suggested he should use voice commands my friend told me I was wrong. When I showed him, and his wife (after he hit the dog again)their dog training book said not to’even raise your hand’ they said I was wrong and the book meant new born puppies. I showed it didn’t but they were quite rude and said the book MEANT puppied but forgot to print it!! I think they had more issues than their dog! Sadly, their dog was left behind a barrier and, poorly trained, it tried to jump the barrier and injured itself. It died the next day.
Jefferson Faudan says
it really depends on the dog i should say… the rest of my dogs can understand a “STOP IT!” except for this one single dog that feels he is alpha which i really hate when he growls over food, over being near his space etc that often can cause fights and the sad thing is, the four other dogs don’t fight back to give him his own dose of medicine… so i feel that i have to interfere when it gets really worse… i have 5 dogs and the 4 other dogs get together well… but the fifth, hardly… sometimes hitting a dog is necessary but doesn’t mean you have to do it always… they’re like people in some ways, some says scolding your kid should be in a conversational manner and some understands and do not repeat it, but some kids needs to be slapped to learn their lesson…
That sounds like a food aggression issue. This often happens when a dog makes the wrong association between people and resources. What works best with my dogs is to teach them that people are the source of resources, rather than the source of negative things.
My Shiba Inu is a stubborn, dominant, and difficult dog to train. I started with aversive techniques, mostly collar corrections, but that only made him more aggressive. There are many studies that show that hitting and other pain based techniques are risky and can worsen a dog’s behavior especially in the long-term. Here is one.
After I stopped using pain based aversive techniques and switched to controlling my dog’s resources, things improved significantly with my Shiba Inu.
I read your article with great interest and I would like to quote it in my term paper on animal abuse. I’d like to bring in the negative effects of the aversive obedience training as an example of how poor education on dog training may lead to unconscious active cruelty toward dogs.
The only problem with that quote is, I’d need a name for the Blog’s owner, and it has to be a real name. Could you tell me by email so I can put your quote into the paper?
My 4 year old Yorkie is new to us 6 months ago. Over this time we have discovered she must have been previously beaten by a male. She has a bad habit at biting my husband and only him when she has done something bad and sometimes even if she hasn’t. It seems like she does this out of fear or aggression. He has tried to approach her more carefully but he is a big guy and I think that really intimidates her. His approach to discipline is to hit her when she has been bad and then he sends her to her bed. I grab her muzzle tightly and say bad girl. I have had absolutely no issues with myself or anyone else but him getting bitten by her. Recently she has even started to yelp or poop and pee when he scares her or makes her nervous. My husband says if it doesn’t stop then he will be getting rid of her because he won’t put up with it. I on the other hand want to find what the problem is and fix it, because other than this problem she is the perfect dog for us. Please help I don’t know what else to do. Michelle
In terms of fear aggression, what has worked best with my dogs is to help them re-associate the fearful stimulus to something positive. For example, my Husky Shania, was fearful of the garbage truck. It is big and makes a lot of noise. Therefore, I slowly desensitized her to it. Here is a bit more on dealing with fearful dogs.
This section deals with people desensitization. Based on what I have read, we can also appear less intimidating to our dogs by bending down so that we are not looming over them. Also no eye-contact, especially stares, which can also be intimidating.
As described in the article above, using physical force has a high risk of making a dog even more fearful, causing submissive urination, and possibly worsening the fear aggression.
Here is a bit more on dog obedience training.
Our new dog buster is a three year old mastiff cross ridgeback and has bad anxiety when i leave.whenever i leave my partner and son can still be here but my parnter said he goes into a panic when i leave but watches my partner leave every morning and when we are home and all out back he has to keep finding me to stay calm if i’m not out there and walk out he’s sttaight to my side which is not a bad thing but need to stop him jumping fence or partner said he has to go for his own safety and we are trying by making fence bigger between front and back yard but it’s already 6 foot high. PLZ HELP I DON’T WANNA LOSE HIM OR HAVE TO GIVE HIM UP. any advice welcome.
Some things that helped with my Shiba Inu-
1. Establish a very fixed schedule. In this way, Shiba Sephy knew exactly what to expect and when.
2. Plenty of exercise and activities. Sephy is more relaxed after he is well exercised.
3. Get everybody in the house involved with feeding and training. In this way, Sephy bonded with everyone in the family and is calm as long as someone is around.
4. Desensitize Sephy to my leaving ritual.
i just wanted to ask you what to do with my Shiba inu( 6 months old), i am new at this. He can be good sometimes, and obey, but sometimes he does some really bad things, like, biting us when we try to take some trash out of his mouth. And yea, when he sees us when we get home from work, he jusmps on us, all happy and stuff, but he always opens his mouth like he wants to bite us. TNX in advance. 🙂
Here are some of my experiences with Shiba Sephy in terms of taking stuff out of his mouth-
In terms of biting, this was what I did-
Here are more of my experiences with Sephy-
Thank you do much for your read. Wonderful explanations.
About 6 months ago I received a call about a disposed older dog who needed a foster sitter for only a few days, being in a rescue before I didn’t have a problem helping a soul in need. A month later, Bentley was recovering and learning commands. I found out the hard way Bentley has dog aggression, after getting myself in the middle of the dog-argument, I wound up with a very nasty few bites from Bentley. After the incident I knew he could not be adopted to anyone and have since taken the role of full time mom. He is a great white mountain dog mix and very set minded. Since the incident I’ve done lead pack walks, crate training, he does average “tricks” and does well with moderated behavioral training such as food handeling techniques.
Bentley is 110 lbs now, 56 lbs more than he weighed after the first incident only 6 months ago. (he was very malnourished) My main concern is that Bentley will growl as a warning when he is being forced into doing something he does not want to do. The three times this has happened it has been because he is being forced into moving out of a place he wants to “investigate”. I know that large mountainous dogs sometimes need to think it is their idea to move into the direction of what the human wants, so in this respect, I try to calm him and tell him he is ok, reassuring “come, come, good dog”. It had worked and myself along with the other people around are ok. However, to be honest I’m terrified.
Today Bentley had a walk with a neighbor who given interest in becoming his full time dog walker while I am at school. On his third walk with the neighbor, Jack, who Bentley has seen and greeted several times; bit him on his hand while Jack was holding a muffin. Bentley not only took the muffin out of Jack’s hand, but lept up in order to reach it. In doing so Bentley bit into my neighbors hand… Twice! And then laid down on the concrete to eat the entire muffin. Jack is not mad, and wants to continue to walk Bentley. As much help it would be for me I am worried. Not only that but I am shocked. Bentley has never shown this type of aggression before now and I belive he knows what a hand is, due to my intense food handeling techniques and treat retrieval methods.
I do not know how to show that his aggression is not wanted. Especially when he ends up getting his “reward” when he is being forceful. If you are still replying to these posts any information would be helpful. If you have questions, I am able to fill you in on his last six months only; since he is my “rescued old man.” Thank you for your time!
Big Kudos to you for helping out a dog in need.
In cases such as this, it is probably best to get in touch with a good professional trainer and do some private training sessions.
While training my Shiba Inu, who is also a very stubborn dog, I found that fear is really the enemy. Once I started fearing him and getting stressed, his behavior got worse, which made me more afraid, and so on. Here are some of the things that helped with my Shiba –
He is a small dog though (31-35 lbs), so I didn’t have to deal with the size and power of a larger dog.
In aggression cases, especially with large dogs, it can sometimes help to use management equipment such as a muzzle (I use a basket muzzle which is less constraining and still allows the dog to pant). In this way, our own fear is lessened during the training process, which will help our dog achieve success. It also prevents the dog from being rewarded for his aggression, which as you say, would only reinforce the aggressive behavior.
It is probably best to consult with a professional trainer who can observe Bentley in real-time, and identify what things trigger his aggression. Sometimes, physical issues, such as joint pain can also trigger aggression.
Hugs to Bentley. Let us know how it goes.
Hannah Flim says
My retriever/cocker spaniel is very protective over me. If anyone gets to close to me or hugs me, he starts to bark. How do I stop this over protectiveness?
Also, he jumps and bites my hand (playfully, not hard) and when I stand up to say “no”, he nips the bottom of my pants. What do I do and how do I stop this?
In terms of biting, this is what I do to stop my dogs from biting me-
With over protectiveness, I usually no-mark (Ack-ack) my puppy when she does this. This communicates to her that it is an undesirable behavior. Then, I ask her for an alternative command, e.g. Down. If she complies, she gets attention and affection.
If she ignores the command, then I withdraw my attention and turn away from her. Sometimes, if she is too pushy, I will body block her away from me and not allow her to come near me for a certain duration.
If she escalates her behavior and starts to bite me or others, she goes to time-out.