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]
Every time i let my dog out of the house so he can go pee and get some exercise he digs a hole under the fence and he leaves for about 2 hours. Then he comes back. One of the neighbors brought him back one day and threatened to kill my dog if he continues to get on his yard. My mom made me tie him up outside in the backyard so he wouldn’t leave anymore but I don’t want to leave him tied up outside if it rains. Is there any way to get my dog to stop leaving the yard and wondering around the neighborhood?
Some things that help to discourage escapes with my dog-
1. I put concrete blocks at the bottom of my fence perimeter so that my dog cannot dig out.
2. I take my dog out for on-leash daily walks so that he gets to explore the neighborhood with me in a safe way.
3. I do structured exercise, play, and training with my dog so that he has positive outlets for his energy.
More on how I deal with dog escapes.
Chaining or tethering a dog outside for long periods of time can cause extreme stress to the dog and lead to behavioral issues including aggression.
i have a 3 months old beagle, who keeps biting carpets, towel and sofa
She knows when i say NO it means she is not allowed to. Most of the time she immediately look away. But she sometimes grab the towel then run away from me, knowing that she is wrong. When i try to take it away from her, she doesnt give it to me without fight.
I tried slapping her, giving her time-out outside. I think she knows she is wrong but she is just too naughty just like a little kid.
Any advice (other than to be patient until she grows up)?
there is also some issue with the night potty training
i often take her outside on leash in the middle of the night for her to go potty, but she keeps getting distracted and want to play instead of going potty (although we are already playing the whole evening). This is so annoying that sometimes i put her back in her crate and then let her to have her potty inside her crate, then she is miserable for the night begging me to not letting her sleep in her wet bed (then i had to clean her crate in the middle of the night which is very exhausting)
Thanks in advance
If I get angry or frustrated with my dog, he usually picks up on my energy, gets even more stressed-out, and acts more crazy then before. Some things that help with my dog –
1. I try to stay very calm. I have things planned out for his various bad behaviors so that I can be calm, decisive, and consistent.
2. If I try to pull things out of his mouth, my dog will pull back as well. This is because he thinks it is a fun game of tug, which actually rewards him for his bad behavior. In this way, he learns to repeat the bad behvaior more because he gets a nice game out of it.
During the training phase, I make sure to puppy proof my house so that there are no towels or other tempting objects around for him to bite. If he does get something, I simply hold the object still (I do not tug back or in any direction). I hold it still close to his mouth so it becomes a very uninteresting activity and he lets go. I am able to do this because I stay very calm, and I train my dog to have good bite inhibition and not to bite on me. Do not do this with dogs who are aggressive.
3. As I understand it, dogs may look away or show other calming signals when they sense that we are angry. This does not mean that they understand *why* we are angry or what we want them to do. They only know that we are angry and want to calm us down by showing us that they are not a threat.
When my dog bites on something he shouldn’t, I calmly no-mark the behavior, and redirect him onto something that he can bite on (e.g. his chew toy). Sometimes, I make the chew toy more desirable by adding food to it. When he redirects, I mark the behavior (Yes) and reward him by playing a fun game with him. In this way, my dog learns that chewing on his toys is a lot more rewarding than chewing on my curtains.
Here is a bit more on-
– Bad dog behavior and how I deal with it.
– How I give timeouts.
– How I potty trained my puppy.
– How I trained my puppy.
I have a 6 months old pugshire (a mix breed between a pug and a yorkshire), and he loves to play, run and chew things, which seems normal for a puppy. When he was 3 months old I started to teach him the basics (sit, lay down, wait, high-five, no-mark and positive mark), and he proved himself a very good learner.
But now that he’s a little bit grown up, he doesnt seem to understand anymore. When I tell him NOT to do something, he stops and waits for me to move away and then start to do it again, or just ignore the no-mark and keep doing the wrong thing (chewing flip-flops) until I stand up and grab the thing away from him.
I’ve tried to “harden up” the no-marks using a water spray, touching his neck/nose, not giving him attention, but he keeps chewing my flip flops. Last week I lost my mind when he was chewing a sock and slapped him twice with the sock in my hand, he cried a bit and never again got close to the place where I put my socks.
I’ve read your post and felt really bad about slapping him again, but slapping was the only way that he seemed to understand that he must not chew something, specially my flip-flops (he already destroyed 4 pairs!)
Is there anyway to teach him without slapping?
When my dog chews on something she shouldn’t, I no-mark, and then I redirect her onto something that she can chew on (e.g. her chew toy). If she redirects, I mark the behavior (Yes) and then I reinforce it by playing a fun game with her. Very quickly, she learned that – Chew on toy = Fun game and affection – which made toy chewing a lot more rewarding.
If she keeps going back to my shoe, then I body block her away and get her to do something else. If she absolutely will not leave it alone, then she loses access to that room. If she escalates her behavior by scratching at the door or biting on me, then I put her briefly in a timeout area.
This teaches her what things are ok/good to chew on, and what things are not. In general, I also start small and give my dog many chances to learn the right behavior. I only *slowly* escalate my response if she escalates her behavior.
I try to be fair, consistent, and calm. I also follow the Nothing in Life is Free program to teach my dogs to follow house rules.
My little jug is coming up to a year old now and still poos on the kitchen floor. Unfortunately we live in a flat on the first floor. There is a garden, but without being on the ground floor, our door leads to the stairs, not straight to the garden, so we do not have immediate access to the garden. At night time, Shae is kept in a crate. In the morning, she is eager to go outside and when I take her into the garden she poops and wee’s like clockwork and I praise her with treats and verbally also. Howevever, 20 minutes after being back in the kitchen (free to roam the room) she often goes on the floor, even after I have just taken her outside. It’s very frustrating as I never see her in the act so cannot scold her at the time. She won’t do it in front of me unless we are outside.
I work in the day and put her back in her crate from around 9am to 4pm. As soon as I get home, I take her out in the garden or for a walk and she goes again like clockwork and she is praised and knows that she is doing a good thing because she runs over to me to get treats every time she goes. But then throughout the evening, when she is free to roam the house, she often has an accident, (several) in the kitchen, and I never catch her in the act.
This has resulted in her being locked away in her crate as punishment, because I cannot trust her out of her crate. I do not know what to do anymore. I am losing patience and struggle to understand why she cannot grasp to only go outside.
Also, sometimes, either during the night or in the day, she will poo in her crate. She does not seem bothered by fowling her own area, where she sleeps. This doesn’t seem normal to me… she is never kept in her crate for a long amount of time (7 hours at the most- over night) When she poos in her crate, it is usually throughout the day, when she is in her crate for an even less amount of time.
She also whines a lot when she is in her crate (never at night time because she is in the routine of bedtime, but if I ever put her in there during the evening for a time out etc, she whines very loudly) and I fear that the neighbours will complain. I have tried to correct this behaviour. By scolding her with sharp words, by shouting, slapping her on the nose, ignoring her, I even got one of those evil anti bark shock dog collars which I used only once because of the distress it caused her. I only bought this as a last resort and I am ashamed that I got it… but NOTHING HAS WORKED. I love her but she is a nightmare at the moment and I do not know what to do.
Any suggestions would be very appreciated. Thank you.
1. Potty training
When potty training my dog, supervision is the most important thing. I am always right there with my puppy so that I can no-mark and take her out when she tries to go in the house. Then, I go with her outside, and reward her extremely well for it – with not just food, but also affection, and her favorite games. I do not let my dog free roam until she is fully potty trained.
I have found that with potty training, it is important to not only maximize successes, but also to minimize mistakes. More on how I potty trained my dog.
2. Crates & Timeouts
I *do not* do timeouts in the crate. Crates can be useful for training, management, and safety, so I slowly crate-train my dogs, and I make it into a very positive experience for them. My dogs go into their crates to work on their chews, to get some alone time, to relax, and when I need to transport them in the car. They enjoy being in there, and see it as a safe and happy area.
More on what I do with timeouts.
3. Pooping in the crate
Some dogs, for example pet store or puppy mill dogs, are caged for long periods of time at a young age. As such, they are *forced* to go in their crate. Ultimately, this becomes normal behavior.
We can retrain the behavior but it will take supervision, time, effort, and patience.
Finally, consistency is very important in dog training. I set up a fixed routine for my dog, which includes a lot of exercise and people time. I set up house rules and a consistent set of consequences so that my dog knows exactly what to expect from me, and what I expect from her in return. I also follow the Nothing in Life is Free program.
Consistency helps my dog to learn more quickly, it reduces stress and problematic stress behaviors, as well as helps with building confidence and a strong bond.
Rebekah Kell says
Hi, I have read a couple of your blogs on dog aggression.
I have a 16 month English Bulldog (male) who has always been friendly with other dogs and enjoys socialising with other dogs.
I live in a 3 floor flat, and my upstairs neighbour has an alsation cross male dog. My neighbours dog is usally off the lead in the close while mine remains on the lead. My neighbours dog usually barks and runs towards my dog – however my dog has started barking aggressively back. – so now my dog has started looking for my neighbours dog when we leave the flat.
Today the alsation dog came running down the stairs and sniffed at my dog in the face and my dog tried to bite my neighbours dog a few times. My neighbours dog didnt try to bite back. I had to physically restrain my dog by pulling him back and in the air by his harness.
I am at my witsend beacuse i feel my dog is not allowing me to be the dominant one.. he is very stubborn and this is completly out of character.
What can i do please?
We all have social boundaries and our dogs have them too. For example, we do not allow strangers to charge us, come into our space, and then sniff our face. Similarly, some dogs do not like having their personal space violated either. This article from Suzanne Clothier talks more about dogs and social boundaries.
In addition, a leashed dog cannot run away and cannot avoid the other dog, so his options are very limited. More on on-leash aggression.
Different dogs have different social tolerances, so I observe each of my dogs carefully and identify situations which causes them stress. For example, my Shiba Inu does not like unknown dogs sniffing his butt. Here is why. Therefore, I protect him and make sure that there is no butt sniffing unless he is totally ok with it.
The more positive social encounters my dog has, the more confidence he builds, and the more calm and relaxed he will be while meeting other dogs. The opposite is also true. This is why I always try to not only maximize successes, but also minimize failure. I try to be consistent about protecting my dogs from unwanted attention. They know that I will take care of things, and they do not need to do it themselves.
Luckily, my neighbors realized that getting charged by unknown dogs is upsetting and dangerous, so they are more careful about leashing up their dogs now. There are still some loose small dogs sometimes, but those with larger dogs are now more responsible about managing them.
More on what I do with my dog, when we see other dogs during walks.
More on how I socialized my Shiba Inu to other dogs.
More on the “friendly dog”.
In cases of aggression, it may also be a good idea to consult with a professional trainer, so that we start off on the right foot, and keep everyone safe.
I am only a young first time owner, 17, of a beautiful 9 week old cavoodle Bonnie. She is not our first family dog, we had two extremely well behaved and loving golden retrievers that my Dad raised. Dad used the technique of hitting them on muzzle forcefully with a stern word or growl to discipline them
He is very persistent that I do the same with Bonnie when she nips and growls, jumps on the coach, cries and other undesirable behaviors.
I hate doing it, though I see it works as a stern no doesn’t scare her at all as she quite fearless.
I give her lots of cuddles and still use rewards when training her though I don’t want her to fear me or other humans but I also want her to know that I the one with dominance.
What other methods would you suggest?
Yes and no are most commonly used as markers. They communicate to our dog what is desirable and undesirable to us, closest in time to the behavior. For a marker to “mean” something, it needs to be charged. For example, if yes is always followed up by a food reward or with affection, then when we say “yes” our dog knows that something good is on the way. In this way, Yes is used to ‘mark’ a desirable behavior. Some people may also use a clicker or beeps to mark behavior.
Here is a bit more on markers.
For shaping a dog’s behavior, we can use aversive training or reward training.
Hitting a dog is an aversive training technique. We add a ‘bad’ stimulus that the dog does not like when he does something undesirable, and take away the stimulus when he does what we want.
I use reward training on my dogs. In reward training, we add a ‘good’ stimulus that our dog likes when he does something desirable, and take away the stimulus when he does something we don’t want. For example, if my dog does a Sit for me, I may reward him with food, a toy, or a game. If my dog bites on me, I may withdraw my attention. If he persists, I may temporarily take away his freedom with a short timeout.
Here is more on how dogs learn.
Here is more on how I deal with bad dog behaviors.
Here is more on dog dominance and bad behavior.
Hey i have a husky x border collie. Hes approx 20 months ad has started an annoying new habbit of running away when i walk him to bed. I usualy give him about 7km run or so as he tows me on the skateboard so is not because of lack of exercise. I let him in the house each night for social time but when i walk him outside to put him to bed in a seperate fenced off area he runs off on occasion into the bush and usually doesnt come back untill morning. How do i punish him when he returns? Is there anyother way than having to just secure him each time on the 30m or so between house and his fenced off yard. My other dog always walks offlead into yard fine and this boy used to but now he takes a dash for freedom on occassion.
Also they both have a tendency to get aggressive with other dogs every now and then. I let them run off lead at the beach and they play with other dogs fine 90% of the time but the second another dog shows the slightest aggression or annoyance he has a go at biting them. I think he is too used to being top dog at home and can impose this heirachy in public with random dogs no matter if its twice his size
Dogs repeat behaviors that get them good results and stop behaviors that get them bad results.
When he runs-off, he gets rewarded with more freedom, so that reinforces the running off behavior because it ‘works’. Punishing a dog when he comes back to us will be counter-productive because he will likely associate the punishment with the most recent behavior, i.e. “coming back” behavior, which is a good behavior that we want to encourage.
At night, when I need to crate my dog or put him in an enclosure, I make sure to reward him very well for it. In this way, he learns to associate going into his enclosure with rewards and positive events. Also, he is more likely to settle down if he has something to work on before sleep. Each of my dogs has his/her own sleep area. In this way, my adult dogs can rest without being pestered by Lara, my young Husky. Also, there will be no conflicts over resources.
If there are multiple dogs in the same area, we need to make sure there is absolutely no aggression or conflicts over food, toys, space, and other resources. Here is more on how I desensitize my dog to his crate.
As for getting along with other dogs, different dogs have difference boundaries and social tolerances. My tripod Husky, Shania, gets overwhelmed more easily, so during play-time I supervise closely, I have smaller play groups, and I manage excitement levels by using play breaks. My Shiba Inu likes playing with friendly dogs, and will stand his ground if challenged (even by big dogs), so I pick his playmates carefully so that everyone can enjoy themselves.
Conflicts may also arise over resources such as balls and other toys.
Here is more on my experiences with dog parks.
My Dog growls and snaps suddenly. he is healthy,fine and very understanding. I am yet to see another dog like him. I have noticed that he snaps when he is sleeping and someone pats him or plays with him, he gets angry when we tell him to do something in a strict tone. I see there is a pattern here but I’m confused! Please help. Where as he is completely different when he is in another place i.e that is when he is not inside the house he behaves very well.
Does it have something to do with him feeling that he is the owner of the house
Some dogs may show aggression when startled awake, especially from a deep sleep. This is also known as canine sleep aggression.
I motivate my dogs to follow rules and commands, by using the Nothing in Life is Free program.
Here is more on dog dominance and bad behavior.
My roommate has two dogs, and when ever she leaves the the dogs or dog goes into my room and chews up my under ware that is in my laundry basket and pees on my bed and pillows. why ? And what can be done to prevent this action?
Dogs do not know what things are acceptable to us, and what things are not. They do things that are natural to them as dogs. When I get a new puppy, I have to teach her my human rules and motivate her to follow those rules through things that she cares about, e.g. food, affection, toys, play, walks, and more.
This is what I do to potty train my dogs, so that they learn not to poop and pee inside the house.
While my new dog is still learning the rules and getting used to her environment, I make sure to supervise her closely so that I can teach her what behaviors are ‘good’ (for people), and what behaviors are ‘bad’. During this time, I close the doors to non-puppy-proofed areas, and use baby gates or leashes as necessary.
More on how I train my puppy and how dogs learn.
Hey my dog does not want to sleep in her own room she scratches the door and cry’s so she has to sleep with me what should I do for her to sleep.
Is this a new puppy? My puppy usually likes being very close to her people, especially in the beginning. She has just been separated from her mother and litter mates, so now she looks to me to protect her, give her affection, give her play, and give her protection.
In the beginning I sleep with my puppy at night. Then as she grows and gains confidence, through training and socialization, I get her comfortable with sleeping in a crate.I put the crate in my room, next to the bed.
As my Husky puppy got older, she became more independent. Now she is fine sleeping on her own, and actually prefers being downstairs where she can prowl about and have more fun.
More on how I trained my puppy.