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]
I had a male Beagle and I tried the rub nose in pee or poop with spank and he still didnt learn. I hated like heck to do that to him but nothing seem to work with regard to going in the house. He was good about going to crate when bedtime but could not learn that he should go out to do his business. and he chewed up all kinda stuff, I whipped him for chewing up some computer cords and other things that pissed me off. Tried spankin him for that and same result. finally I just gave up and kept him outside. I am seeking proven methods fo r house training a dog without negative reenforcement. I hate spanking but dont know proven method for trainng other than spank. (thats how I saw my dad do it) I wanna do it differently for my next dog. I’m looking at a boxer mix at the local shelter. beautiful brindle female.
While training my dogs, I have observed that timing is extremely important. In particular, we want the reward or punishment to occur as close to the “target behavior” as possible. This is why with potty training, supervision is key. We need to be there while our dog is making his mistake. If we are there, we can interrupt, take him outside, and teach him the behavior that we want.
As you have observed, punishing a dog after the fact will not have the intended effect because the dog does not understand which behavior he is being punished for, and he does not know what he is supposed to do instead.
Here is more on what I do to potty train my dogs.
Here is a bit more on how dogs learn and how I trained my Huskies.
My dog is a 2 year old yorkie poo that is OUT OF CONTROL. I will start from the beginning….He bites and rips his hair out, he doesn’t like his own food and will go a whole day without eating, I don’t know why!! And when he doesn’t eat, he throws up this yellow/green YUCKY stuff. He eats up carpet and hair (gross, I know), He’ll eat anything thats not edible really, he has had a weird interest in underwear, socks, clothes in general. He even ate a razor once!!!! He also snaps and bites!!! Just today, I dropped a peice of pizza and he went for it! He got it and when I tried to take it and tell him to get in his bed, he showed me his teeth and snapped at me! He also whins A LOT when put in his crate. He annoys other dogs, by humping them and licking them in their ear holes (weird, I know). All the dogs in the neighborhood hate him. I have had this dog since he was 8 weeks old and I don’t know what to do! My fiance and I have tried to train him since the beginning, but my fiance was taking the aversive training method and I could not do it. I also did not do the reward training. This was my first dog adn I really didn’t know what ot do. My fiance was the only one training him with aversive training. Is it too late? My fiance and I are debating getting rid of him but honestly I LOVE HIM TO DEATH. I want to fix this problem, what can I do?
Also, he is not neutered. Should I try and get this done?
It sounds like your dog has a food allergy that makes him itchy, hence chewing on himself and avoiding the food that makes him feel sick. Food allergies cause dogs to be malnourished and have a compromised immune system, but that’s probably why he’s going for non-edibles, because he’s probably hungry. Try switching to science diet. It will take a few weeks to see improvement. As far as the humping, getting him fixed may alter that behavior, but BECAUSE he’s humping, you really ought to get him fixed to prevent forcing someone else to deal with a litter of puppies in the future. Hope this helps.
Re Food and Allergies:
I would consult the vet about this, especially if he is throwing up. Food allergies can also cause itching and scratching.
Re Training and House Rules:
Some things that helped with my dogs for training and following house rules-
I found that it was very important that I stay consistent while training them. Everybody uses the same techniques, I set up a fixed and consistent routine, I set up a consistent set of communication commands and signals, and also establish a consistent set of rules. Otherwise, the dog may get confused and may not understand what we want him to do.
2. Timing & Execution.
Timing is also very important in dog training. I make sure to time my reward stimulus so that it is as close as possible to the target behavior. I found that incorrect timing can actually worsen behaviors. This is something that a professional trainer was able to help me with – both timing and proper execution of the training techniques.
3. Calm Energy.
Sephy was a highly excitable and reactive dog. The best way I found to deal with his excited energy, is to be very calm myself. If I get angry, stressed, or frustrated, he would pick up on my energy and become even more reactive. He was able to listen and respond better when I am calm and have a consistent plan of action.
Daily walks and obedience training sessions also helped to redirect Sephy’s excited energy into more structured activity. I also make all my dogs work for all of their food and resources. In particular, I follow the Nothing in Life is Free program.
Here is a bit more on what I did for training Sephy-
How to be pack leader to a reactive dog.
Basic dog obedience training.
Creating a structured environment for a puppy.
Here are some of my experiences with food aggression and food guarding.
Here is an article from the ASPCA about some of the benefits of neutering a dog.
lol yeah I had a Dalmation that ate GRAVEL! out of the drive way lmao no idea what that was about lol. And he did that for a long time. I was like wth is he eating those gravel for.???!!?!?
Tiffany Earley says
PLEASE HELP ME!!!!!! I have a miniature keeshond who is about to turn 2 in a few weeks. We bought him in 01/11 he has not been neutered yet either but soon plan on to. However, ever since we had him he caused chaos:( He has calmed down alot on bad habits but he still pees and poops in the house. When we leave and he is not outside in the backyard we leave him in the kitchen with a gate up. However, by the time we get home he escapes from the gate and he consistently pees on my couch and poops in my 4 yr. old daughter’s bedroom constantly. The minute we walk in and see him out we already know what we are walking into so I grab him up, rub his nose in it, yell, and spank his butt!!! I have been doing this forever and it does not seem to work and I feel that this is not the best solution because it is not working and I do not want him to fear me and bite me- he has tried before:( I really want to try something else because I am at the end of my ropes with him and do not want to break my daughters heart by getting rid of him. We have become so attached to this potty devil………PLEASE HELP ANYONE!!!!!
With potty training, what has worked best for my dogs is to minimize mistakes, and reward them well for doing the right thing.
I also set up a very fixed routine with fixed times for eating, walks, play, etc.
Here is more on what I do-
Hi! I have a blue heeler and I’m curretnly having three problems with her. The first is that she is uncontrollable around food, she eats anything and everything that we leave out, even if its on the table or counter. Shes been disciplined (saying NO, showing her the empty plate or pizza box, and a light slap on the snout) but she continues to do so, not only is this bad behavior (and I hate physically reprimanding her) but its dangerous for her health (she got into rat bait once at a friends house and had to be rushed to the hospital, shes fine now thankfully) She’ll eat herself sick and I can’t stop it– any suggestions, please! The second is she has become a bit of an escape artist and is strating to run away, I’m worried maybe I’m not excersicing her enough? Also when I find her she doesnt always return when I call her, she look at me and keeps sniffing and then finally, after multiple shouts and whistles runs up to me happily– I never discipline her for returning to me though because I don’t want her to think that returning is bad- how can I teach her running away is bad? The third is that she shows more respect to my significant other- whenever he is around if he yells at her to not do something she immediatly stops, but when I do it she doesnt? I can’t find any significant ways we treat her differently so I dont understand why, could this simply be because he is male and therefore has a sterner deeper voice? Thanks for any and all advice/ comments! I’m going to try the time out technique for the food thing for sure, maybe it will work for running away too?
Re Coming when called:
This article from the ASPCA has a great list of all the recall techniques and how to train a dog to come when called. You are absolutely right in not punishing the dog when she returns. That would only make her not want to return. *Do not* use timeouts to punish a dog when she returns.
Dogs run away because there are interesting things on the other side to explore and smell. The way to make dogs come back, is to make them a better offer. Consistent daily exercise will also help. A dog that gets daily on-leash walks and exercise, will have less of a need to explore on her own.
Herding dogs and many other working dogs are very intelligent and high energy. What has worked well for my dogs, is to redirect their energy into positive structured activity. For example, I make them work for all of their food, we do obedience sessions, play sessions, and daily walks.
Re Opportunistic eating:
Most dogs love food and are opportunistic eaters. When a dog jumps up a table or counter and finds food, they will learn to repeat this behavior because it has a very positive outcome – they find food at the end of the rainbow.
I have found that they best way to stop this behavior is to make sure that my dogs never get rewarded for it. I make sure to put all food away when I am not there to supervise. If they try doing it when I am around, then I put them on a brief timeout. If they are calm and follow house rules, I reward them well. We often only pay our dogs attention when they do something ‘wrong’. But I find that it is even more important to reward them for doing something ‘right’, even if it is just lying around and not doing anything at all. 😀
In this way, they learn that –
1. Jumping on counters = Never get anything and will lose freedom to roam the house.
2. Being calm and following house rules = Get attention, food rewards, and continued freedom to roam the house.
Re Respect and being pack leader:
I had a lot of difficulties with my Shiba Inu in the beginning. After many difficult months, I learned that Sephy and indeed many other dogs are very good at observing us and sensing our inner energy. I could speak in a stern voice and it would not matter if internally, I was feeling fearful or uncertain. I learned that being very calm and confident is very important with Sephy. When I am not calm, he will pick up on my inner energy, get stressed, and behave even more badly.
Here is more on my experiences with Sephy and pack leadership.
A Tijman says
Hi I have a pack of 8 dogs at home, I have 2 full grown males and 1 youngster, and the rest are females. The one female is at the moment very dominant and is attacking with no reason, she grabs the one dog that is irritating her and then obviously the whole pack likes to join in. Now I have already seperated them in two groups I have the older ones in the house with me and the younger ones outside. She also has it in for her sister so that one I also keep close with the elder ones (14.13yrs). We have recently moved to a farm house and the garden is pretty large and for me very difficult to get a hold of them to pull them apart. When we do get them we give them a spanking and divide them up in the rooms so that they all can cool down. However when I am alone and I cannot get to them I tend to grab a stick just to get them to let go and then move them. What can I do to make them stop and listen to me in such circumstances as a neighbor came today and said I was mishandling them. We love all our dogs to bit and tonight will be sitting around the tv with them lying all over my lap and getting loving attention. Please help! Regards Liesje
I think separating them into manageable groups is a good idea.
Dogs usually have conflicts over resources, e.g. space, attention, food, etc. They may also show aggression in response to what they perceive as a threat.
What has helped with my dogs is to teach them clear rules of interaction with each other. For example, I do not allow humping, and there is also no stealing. When the older dogs want to rest, I stop my younger Sibe from bothering them. She is young and has the infinite energy of youth. 😀
What has worked well is for me is to stop and redirect conflict behaviors before they escalate into aggression. When they are working on food, I body block them away if they get too close. Often, I also redirect them into doing something else. As soon as I notice one dog about to mount (e.g. lay paws on another one’s back), I stop her right away, and give an alternate command. If she continues with her humping, then play stops and she goes on a brief timeout.
In this way, she learns the following-
1. Humping or not following rules = play stops and lose freedom.
2. Her people will handle conflicts in a fair and consistent way. There is no need for her to use aggression.
3. Her people will protect her space, and belongings. She does not need to protect them herself with aggression.
For in-training dogs, I often use a drag lead (only with a regular flat collar). This allows me to take them to timeout without resorting to chasing games, which only rewards the dog for her bad behaviors. I try to always stay calm, and I manage the situation and environment so that I am always in control. I only use the drag-lead under supervision because it may catch on furniture, bushes, etc, which may cause harm to the dog.
In addition to stopping conflict behaviors before they escalate, I also try to teach my dogs that cooperation and being calm together will get them the most rewards. Dogs often see each other as competitors for limited resources, which can ultimately lead to fights. Instead, I do group obedience sessions so they get used to working with me and focusing on me, when they are together. I reward them well for working together. In this way, they learn that cooperation (not conflict) gets them the most resources.
Here are more things that I do to keep the peace at home with my dogs.
Given that there are so many dogs involved, a professional trainer can also be helpful. A professional can observe the dogs’ body language, identify trigger events (what events cause the aggression), and come up with a safe plan for redirecting and retraining aggressive behaviors. In cases of aggression, we always want to take special precautions to make sure that everyone is safe, both human and canine.
I use a Halti. today i did not and she displayed protective behaviour toward a man standing near me by going up to him and growling. I smacked her bum immediately as I feared she would bite and has bitten before. I feel bad now. I will have to stick with using the Halti for good control and not smack…..
She also decides to go her route on walks by pulling her way, if I refuse she wil simply lay down in opposition to me.
Any other comments?
My Shiba will do that sometimes. He goes into a Down position and does not want to get up. I usually lift him up by his chest so that he is in a sitting position, then I just move along at a faster clip. I only do this with a regular collar or harness.
Sometimes, I scrape my shoes on the concrete sidewalk. Sephy doesn’t like that sound so that also helps to get him moving. Playing the Find-It game and making the walk interesting with foot-work exercises also helps. I switch things around to make the walk fun for the both of us.
I used the head halti briefly with one of my Sibes. During that time, I also put on a harness or regular collar. I used the halti to prevent pulling, but I used the harness to get Shania up and/or to move along. Here is a bit more on my experiences with using the head-halti.
Hi, I recently acquired a one year old Border Collie. The only dogs I have experience with are pugs and schnauzers so I am not sure how to discipline her. I have a feeling that this “Spanking slapping hitting” method isn’t the best so I feel bad for training my dogs this way. I want to discipline my new dog correctly and without using slapping or physical discipline, and I am hoping to change with my other dogs too. I have problems with my collie constantly running off and she will not come back. She doesn’t listen well in general and I would like to know how I could fix this? (Take note that she is an outside dog…)
Here are some things that help with my dogs-
1. NILIF (Nothing in Life is Free) program.
2. Some training techniques that I use on my Sibe puppies.
3. How dogs learn.
As for recall (coming when called) this ASPCA article has a nice list of the various techniques-
Let us know how it goes and big hugs to your furry ones.
Heather Williams says
Hi, I have a 7 year old female Jack Russell (not spayed)who is not consistently aggressive and is a very loving dog toward my family. We got a shihzu (female, not spayed) 2 years ago and randomly the Jack Russell would unexpectedly attack the shihzu, even drawing blood once. It was never predictable and time wise there was never any regularity to it. She still does it maybe once a year. My stepdaughter moved in with us and brought a corgi puppy with her (male, 8 weeks old). My Jack Russell just attacked the puppy for the second time- randomly and with what I could see no provocation. She actually bit thru the poor puppy’s lip. The Jack Russell is my baby and always has been- I am extremely careful about showing any of the other dogs any attention or affection when she is around. What do I do? I can’t put my Jack down I love her too much. Any help or direction you could give me would be much appreciated. Thank you!
I got a new Sibe puppy last year (Lara), and my Shiba Inu also did not get along with her in the beginning. The thing with puppies is that they want to play with everyone and everything and they do not have an “off-switch”. 😀
Lara did not do anything overt to provoke aggression, but she would keep going into Shiba’s space, poke her nose where it was not wanted, and sometimes try to engage play when the other dogs only want to rest.
Some things that help my dogs get along at home-
1. A fixed routine and schedule for puppy. In this way she is not always up and about.
2. Close supervision and management of puppy. I make sure that when my other dogs do not want to be bothered, puppy leaves them alone.
3. Many play breaks. During play, things can get over-excited and then it becomes something else. I usually have many obedience breaks where the dogs come over to me, do some simple commands, get rewarded really well, and then they can go back to playing. I also have strict play rules.
4. Group obedience training sessions. I make them all work together for me, and reward them very well when they are calm and working cooperatively.
Once my Shiba saw that the puppy is a positive thing, that actually results in a positive impact on his life (more good play, more rewards, etc.) he started warming up to her. Here is more of what I do with my dogs at home-
With my Shiba, desensitization exercises were also useful in redirecting his reactivity toward other dogs-
Kurt Nelson says
Hi, I have a year and a half dog, mixed breed. Looks like some whip-it, maybe a little German Shepard, and rottweiler. I find that when we put a little treat in her bowl she likes to growl when you get close. I’ve been trying to train her by taking it away and constantly playing with it so that she gets the picture it’s not okay to do that. But today she bit me, not enough to break skin, but enough to piss me off and react in a bad manner and strike her back in a dominant force. I took her food away and walked downstairs where she tried to suck up knowing full on that she knew what she did was wrong. I want to know how to go about this situation. I don’t like to hit her, there are I’m sure other options. Thank you for your time in advance.
When Sephy (my Shiba Inu) was young, he would try to eat almost everything that we saw on our walks. Of course, I diligently took all of those things away from him. However, after some time of this, he started to growl whenever I approached him. This is because he has learned to associate “me approaching him” with losing his valued possessions. Every time I reached for him, he loses what he finds. Therefore, he has learned to try and keep me away, so that his stuff doesn’t keep getting taken away.
What has worked well with Sephy and all of my dogs is to instead condition them to associate people with positive events and as the “source” of stuff, which is what we are. We control all of our dogs resources, so we just need to teach them this fact in a productive way.
By letting them “have” something first, and then taking it away, we make it into a negative event. However, by only rewarding them after they have done something good, it becomes a positive event.
For example, I don’t give my dogs any of their food in a bowl. Instead, I use all of their daily food rations as rewards for “working” for me throughout the day. They get food for doing commands, for staying calm when there are visitors, for following house rules, for walking without pulling, etc. This is sometimes also referred to as the NILIF (Nothing in Life is Free) program.
I also do several training exercises with them to prevent food aggression, including exchanging objects and teaching them the Leave-It command. Here is a bit more on what I do to prevent food guarding.