How to punish a dog

When dogs get into trouble, owners often tend to scold them to let them know that what they did was wrong. However, punishment is not the right way to educate a pet. It is better to use positive training methods rather than punishments.


Why are punishments not recommended?

Owners often use punishment to educate dogs, to let them know they are not happy with what they have done. For example, puppies may be punished for doing their business in the house instead of outside. Dogs can also be punished for destroying things while the owners are away, etc.

However, punishment is not recommended. Indeed, for a punishment to be "effective", i.e. understood by the animal, it must be immediate and sufficiently aversive to prevent the animal from doing it again.

Punishments are generally not effective for several reasons:

- punishments are rarely immediate, it is rare to be able to catch the animal in the act
- for a punishment to be aversive, it would be detrimental to animal welfare

Punishments are therefore not the solution to educate an animal, it will not understand that what it has done is wrong because of the punishment.

Punishments can even be counterproductive in that they can be a source of stress for the animal. It can lead to or aggravate certain annoying behaviors in the dog: uncleanliness, destruction, etc.

Finally, one must always keep in mind that one cannot reproach an animal for something that is natural for it or that it cannot control. Here are several examples:

- Puppies usually take several weeks to several months to learn to toilet. Some puppies take longer than others to learn that they should only relieve themselves outside and not in the house. Punishing them won't make them understand more quickly that the house is not the right place to relieve themselves.
- A puppy discovers the world with his mouth (this is called the oral phase) and loses his milk teeth between 4 and 7 months of age, so he needs to chew. Rather than punishing him for chewing on your things, offer him suitable toys that he can chew on safely (under your supervision).
- A dog may relieve himself in the house because of health problems: again, there is no need to scold him, taking care of his health problems will probably solve the problem.


How to educate your pet without using punishments?

It is recommended to use positive training methods to educate dogs rather than punishments. This means praising them and rewarding them when they do what you ask (sit, down, paw, etc...) with treats, toys or even petting.

Using positive-use methods has several advantages:

- dogs learn more easily and quickly
- it builds trust between the animal and its owner