Ask the Dog Trainer: When Should You Punish Your Dog?

Dog punishment

When a dog trainer begins working with a new client, the pet’s owners typically have tons of questions about the process. Most pet parents are concerned about what will happen once the trainer finishes their work and they’re left to keep Fido in line.

Ask anyone who’s raised children and they’re likely to tell you that, sometimes, punishment is the only way to correct some behaviors. So, logically, wouldn’t this same approach work equally well when Fido misbehaves?

What the research tells us – and what virtually every good dog trainer understands today – is that punishing your dog in this manner is the wrong approach under virtually any circumstances. In fact, it could even lead to fearfulness and aggression in some dogs.

Understanding the Difference Between Punishment & Correction in Dog Training

Most pet owners don’t know much about dog training methods. Many of us grew up learning to smack Fido with a rolled-up newspaper if he misbehaved or rub his nose in his mess if he answered nature’s call indoors. These are both prime examples of punishment.

Punishment is essentially anything that causes pain to your pet, physically or emotionally. Although it might not cause any direct physical harm, screaming loudly and angrily at your pet can frighten him, potentially leading to other unwanted (and potentially aggressive) behaviors.

A dog trainer may sometimes have to give your pet a correction, such as a firm “No!” to stop unwanted behavior. However, this is never done in anger or in any way that could frighten or harm the dog.

Why Many Dog Trainers Prefer Positive Reinforcement to Punishment

Most professional dog trainers have years of education and experience and have studied with many of the industries most respected experts. They use humane methods based on scientific research – the most noted of which is based on the concept of positive reinforcement.

The primary way dog trainers achieve results is by substituting a desired behavior for an undesired one. So, if Fido is barking obsessively, they determine what they want him to be doing instead and train to that. The trainer will reward him – positively reinforce him, so to speak – when he exhibits the preferred behavior. The most commonly recognized reward is a food treat but it could be anything your dog likes, including a walk, a game of fetch or even a few pets and an enthusiastic “Good boy!!”

Because your pet desperately wants to please you, this approach is a win-win. Fido gets to make you happy and gets a reward in the process. You get what you want – a little peace and quiet in this case – and you take one more step toward setting the behavior for the future.

Trust Your Professional Dog Trainer’s Guidance

Punishing your pet can significantly degrade his trust and respect. As a result, he could become fearful of you, cowering or running away when you enter the room or approach him. He could even act out or become aggressive. What punishment won’t do is correct a problem behavior.

A professional dog trainer can help. Your trainer can work with Fido on correcting those unwanted behaviors and then help you learn how to reinforce good behavior at home.

In Salt Lake City, Innovative K9 Academy offers a variety of dog and puppy training options, including boot camps and group classes. We can help you with everything from basic obedience to behavioral problems and aggression. Contact us today to learn more about how your pet can benefit from working with a professional dog trainer.