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]
Rami Al Saleh says
My dog was beaten by his previous owner n now he is afraid of most people…what do I do???
Hi I have a major problem with my pit bull, one day me and my boyfriend got into an argument and our dog felt the need to bite me that’s my number one issue also I am pregnant and now ever since that happened he has been peeing and pooping all over the house. . could you possibly be able to help me on how to get him to stop he was potty trained very well even when he was a puppy he never went potty in the house now hes starting. Would you know of a reason for why he’s acting out. I’m in desperate need for advice specially with our baby coming soon! He never has been mean I think he was just scared and didn’t know what to do but I’m clueless n looking for answers to fix this problem I do not want to get rid of my dog please and thank you
Has there been a lot more stress in the household? Have there been more arguments? Have the arguments been more serious? Have there been other changes in your routine or your dog’s routine? What is your dog’s daily routine like?
My dogs are very sensitive to the energy of the people around them. If I am stressed, frustrated, or angry, my dog will pick up on that, get stressed himself, and become even more reactive. To calm my dog down, I first need to control my own energy.
In addition, I also set up a fixed daily routine for my dog and a consistent set of rules. In this way, my dog knows exactly what to expect from me, and what I expect from him in return. Changes in routine is also a common cause of stress for dogs.
Stress can cause changes in behavior, including soiling in the house and more.
Finally, dog behavior is very context dependent. A dog’s temperament, daily routine, environment, past experiences, and more will all affect his behavior. This is why in cases of aggression, especially with a baby coming soon, it is best to get help from a good professional trainer. When I was having behavioral issues with my Shiba, we did private sessions with several trainers and it was helpful to have them observe Sephy, read his body language, and guide me on how to redirect and change his behavior.
More on dog anxiety.
In cases of anxiety, it is important *not* to punish the dog as that will only introduce more stress into the situation, and likely make things worse.
I have a German shepherd female and her pup whose a rotweiller and shepherd mix…both stay together….
I have a problem I have 2.tortoise in my garden and the pup seems to hurt my tortoise biting his shell….and tossing it up over….
I really hit him and chained him with no food and have been ignoring him….
Have also used the command NO in a very firm way…
But she doesn’t seem to get it….
Can someone help
I Can not let my dog harm the tortoise…
Timing is very important when training my dog. To stop my dog from performing an undesirable behavior, I need to be right there to supervise, stop him, and then redirect him into doing something else that is positive. Correcting my dog after the fact will *not* work, because he will not know what behavior he is being punished for.
Dogs have a natural prey instinct, so they may go after other animals which they view as prey. It is instinctual, and the behavior may also be self-reinforcing because if they manage to catch and “play” with their prey, then they get rewarded for their prey-stalk behaviors, which will encourage them to repeat those behaviors more frequently. Therefore, it is important that I am there to supervise, and prevent my dog from getting to the other animal. In this way, I can redirect my dog and get him to do a positive behavior instead.
If I am unable to supervise, then I keep my dog(s) separated from cats and other animals he might prey on.
Here are two articles that talk more about how to retrain and redirect this type of behavior-
HItting your dog will not solve the problem it will only make the dog more aggressive, perhaps speak with a trainer.
Kaley Hatch says
I have a dog around a year and a half old. I BBQed a full plate of carne asada and was eating it, but left it up on the couch to switch a load of laundry. When I came back the plate was on the floor and every single piece was gone. $14 worth… I am so furious but am not sure how to punish her. I feel like wringing her neck but I am not an animal abuser… HELP!
I found that my dogs trained me as much as I trained them. It would probably be much easier to just not leave your food in such an accessible place than to train a dog not to eat yummy carne asada left out unattended. There are ways to make the behavior unrewarding, however. When my dog was younger he loved stealing things from the counter. He’s pretty tall and it was easy for him to snatch food even when we were right there. I read somewhere to try to make the experience uncomfortable by rigging coke cans filled with loose change on the counter. He would knock over the can and the noise it made eventually scared him away from trying to take anything from the counter. That way he doesn’t associate anything negative towards you or your behavior, only towards the behavior of stealing stuff off the counter. Try to leave something that makes it undesirable for her to even check the couch in the first place. I’m not sure what that might be, but get creative. Hope I could help. I’m no expert, but I’ve raised two fairly well behaved dogs and after learning that spanking really didn’t accomplish anything, I stopped and looked for alternatives. Seems like you’re doing the right thing by coming here to find a way to resolve it by other means.
That one is on you 100%. I hope you learned the food goes on counter and table. A dog can smell a million times what we can, can you imagine how good your food smelled? You set him up to fail?
I just got a dog and since I was new to dog raising I would punish her and praise her like a human child. Whenever she would do something bad I would spank and if she were to do something right, I would praise her and give her affection. I find that there’s a healthy balance between punishment and reward and it’s effective. That way your dog is neither spoiled nor afraid of everything. Articles like these make me think however, and there will always be something new to learn.
We have 2 siberian huskies, both female and they are from the same litter. They are now 8 months old. They play fight a fair bit and I’m fine with that. They are mainly outside dogs at the moment. When me and my 6 year old daughter are in the garden the one girl Lumi will not let the other Indy anywhere near us, she will weave in and out to stop Indy getting near either of us and she snarls and growls. We get up and walk away and go inside and they rip shreds out of each other until blood is drawn. Then they are so loving together licking each other’s wounds, and so loving towards us, but it’s getting my dughter really upset that they are fighting. Lumi protects her dinner too, and often will not eat unless she is starving. How can we stop the blood shed?? We give them and always have given them equal amounts of loving and treats. Please help!
Some things that I do with my dogs-
1. I set up clear dog-to-dog interactions rules and I slowly teach my dogs what those rules are.
2. I supervise my dogs very well, and redirect them before things escalate into something more serious.
3. I carefully manage their excitement level by throwing in play-breaks, so that play does not get out of control and becomes something else.
4. I use gates, leashes, and other management equipment as needed to keep everybody safe, and also to keep all my dogs safe.
5. I also set up consistent house rules and people interaction rules. I establish structure and a fixed routine so that my dogs know exactly what to expect from me, what to expect from the people around them, what to expect from each other, and what I expect from them in return. Structure, routine, consistency, and training are all very important to keep my dogs safe and healthy, and to keep the people around them safe.
More on what I do to help my dogs get along.
However, it is important to note that dog behavior is very context dependent, so each situation is different. Given that the dogs are drawing blood and there is a young girl in the house, I would get help from a good professional trainer.
When I was having behavioral issues with my Shiba Inu, we did private lessons with several trainers, so we could focus on his more serious problem behaviors. The trainer can observe Sephy in his normal surrounding context, evaluate him, teach me how to better read his body signals, and help me come up with a good plan for rehabilitation.
I have 1 and a half year old cane corso name Daisy. I am 9 months pregnant and me and my husband are having the hardest time with her. I am with her thru out the day by myself and I feel as if she is testing me to see what she can get away with. This week she has tore thru our trash 3 different times,stolen food right off my plate and refuses to listen to basic commands like sit, go lay down, or stop! She knows better! This dog is just as big as me if not bigger I can not give her the attention she craves right now in my condition I love her dearly I’ve had her since she was 2 months old! She hasn’t been easy to train so I have resorted to spanking her my fear is that this unwanted behavior will continue once the baby gets here which can be any day now! Since I’ve become pregnant she has jealous tendencies and unpredictable behavior and I can not afford to have her injur my child! I don’t want to give her away she is apart of my family but it seems like I have no choice if the behavior continues
Congratulations on your upcoming new baby!
Given that there will be a baby in the household soon, I would get help from a good professional trainer.
Here are a couple of articles from the ASPCA on how to prepare a dog to a new baby-
Stealing food and getting into trash can be self-reinforcing behaviors. If a dog tries to get into trash or tries to steal food and succeeds, then he gets rewarded for the behavior with people food that he doesn’t get otherwise. This reinforces the behavior, and he will keep repeating it because he gets good results.
I stop my dog from counter surfing or going into trash by making sure that he *never* gets rewarded for those behaviors. If I am not around to supervise, then I make sure there is no food on the counters and the trash is properly secured behind a door. This is very important because if my dog gets rewarded for the behavior sometimes, then he will just keep trying harder because the next time may be the time he gets the special food.
When I am around to supervise, I give my dog a no-mark as soon as I see him nosing around the trash area or trying to jump up a counter. I then give him an alternate command, e.g. Sit which I have pre-trained him on. If he does it, I mark the behavior and make sure to reinforce it with food and attention. In this way, I redirect an undesirable behavior into a positive behavior, and then reinforce the positive behavior.
If he does not listen, then I body block him from the area. If he keeps going back to the area, then I keep him out of the kitchen with a baby gate. In this way, he learns that if he tries to jump on kitchen counters, then he doesn’t get to be in the kitchen. This is a negative result to the behavior, which will discourage him from repeating it.
I also set up a fixed routine and a consistent set of house rules for my dog. I slowly teach him what those rules are so that he knows what I expect from him and what he can expect from me. I motivate him to follow rules by following the Nothing in Life is Free program.
A big part of my dog’s daily routine includes walks, structured play, and other positive activities to redirect his doggy energy. When I got too busy, I hired a dog walker or did dog daycare. If I don’t provide Sephy with positive outlets for his energy, then he would always come up with many less desirable ways to spend his day. 🙂
Lee Christie says
Whipping every time. we got this outof control mongrel really big and we trained him using a leather whip. he got repeated beatings which i admit were pretty harsh if he was a milimetre outa line and it worked. also when i drive or race horses at work we whip them so why not dogs?
i cant believe that you whip your dog- that is so bad for you and your dog –
please stop – did you try and break your dogs spirit. – I am so sorry that you have felt the need to use force and not love – I send you much love and hope that you never get whipped.
thankyou for this posting. I have a 3 months old puppy who’s crazy about biting and i receive an advice from a friend to hit her on her butt. so I did that, it did help for a week or so but now i think she doesnt like me to touch her anymore. before she would sleep on my feet and asking me to hold her pretty much all the time.
Can you please tell me how to “undo” this?
I’m feeling heartbroken right now, I wish I did more research myself than listening to people.
What helped with my Shiba Inu is to slowly reassociate touches with positive rewards and experiences. I always start small and go in small steps so that the exercise is rewarding and successful. The more successes we had, the more Sephy learned to associate people with good things, and the more confidence he gained. The opposite is also true, so I try to minimize negative experiences. Here are some things that I did with Sephy.
As for biting, this is what I do to teach my puppy not to bite on me.
More of what I do to control puppy biting.
What really helped me was yelling ouch loudly and ignoring my dog. They when you reach down to let them hold your hand firmly flat so they have to lick and not be able to bite. Then praise and power them. This method sounds silly but I’m working with a puppy too and it’s decreased a lot since I started doing this.
Aaliyah Robinson says
Hi there! I have an eight month old puppy named Branson. He is a german shepherd lab. We do discipline him by spankings, and he is learning from it. But I feel like he is getting too old to pee in the house. He won’t poop in the house, but he really only pees. It’s really driving me crazy because every time my Dad comes around, he gets excited and pees. He does that ALL THE TIME. (Its even more annoying because me and my brother are the only two in charge out of six people to train the puppy) He isn’t very smart in the potty area and it’s making me insane and I want to get rid of him. Do you think you can tell me why male dogs are slower than females and how I can get him to be smarter in the potty training area? He knows he has to go outside to do his business, but it seems like he just doesn’t care to let us know.
That sounds like excitement urination.
Throw him outside everytime he pees in the house it serves as a time out and a reinforcement that he cannot pee inside the house…I have an 8 months old German shepard lab myself and that’s how we house broke him.