Dogs are incredibly loving and loyal animals. They become an integral part of many families, offering unconditional love and companionship. But when it comes to their training and behaviour, it’s important to understand that dogs respond to certain forms of punishment negatively and that their welfare is affected by them.
Many dog guardians may not be aware of just how much force and punishment can affect their dogs and can even lead to anxiety and aggression; this is why it is so important to consider the welfare and ethics of your dog when it comes to their training.
What is Force and Punishment?
Force and punishment are two forms of negative feedback used to alter a dog’s behaviour. Force involves the use of physical or verbal coercion, such as forceful handling or verbal reprimands, to get a dog to do something.
Punishment involves the use of negative consequences, such as physical corrections or verbal reprimands, to dissuade a dog from engaging in a certain behaviour. They're both common tools used by dog owners and trainers, but they can also be damaging to a dog's wellbeing.
Causes of Anxiety and Aggression in Dogs
Force and punishment can cause anxiety and aggression in dogs in several ways. Firstly, they can create feelings of stress and insecurity in the dog. The use of force can be intimidating and make the dog feel unsafe. Punishment can also cause the dog to feel anxious or fearful, as they associate certain behaviours with being reprimanded or corrected. Over time, this can lead to the development of aggressive behaviour, which is a way for dogs to cope with their fear and anxiety. Furthermore, the use of force and punishment can undermine the safety and comfort of the dog by damaging the bond between them and their guardian.
The long-term consequences of this type of training can be extremely damaging to a dog’s wellbeing. Not only can it lead to anxiety and aggression, it can also cause the dog to be over-sensitive to physical contact, making handling and interactions more difficult. Additionally, dogs exposed to these types of reinforcement can become more fearful of their environment and may even become untrusting of their owners.
The Relationship Between Fear and Aggression in Dogs
Fear and aggression are strongly linked in dogs, as fear is often what leads to aggressive behaviours. A fearful dog may display signs such as cowering, trembling, barking, or growling. It’s important to understand what a scared dog is trying to communicate and to try to remain calm and confident in order to help them feel safe.Some dogs are more prone to aggression when scared, such as dogs who have learned it works or dogs who have had traumatic experiences. Therefore, it’s important to be mindful of your dog’s environment, as even seemingly mundane actions such as loud noises or sudden movements can be frightening.
The Alternative to Aggression is Even Worse
Many dogs may not respond with aggression to punishment. When some dogs are punished with scolding, physical punishment or force, they may not have the confidence to stand up for themselves and instead become emotionally shut down in an attempt to avoid further punishment. This often results in a decrease in motivation and enthusiasm, as well as an increase in fearful and anxious behaviour. If a dog is punished repeatedly and consistently, they can become so emotionally shut down that it affects their ability to learn, interact and enjoy interactions with people. Their physical health will also suffer as punishment makes them fearful and this causes a lowered immune and digestive process.
Alternatives to Force and Punishment
It’s important to understand that there are more effective ways to train a dog that take the welfare and ethics of the animal into account. Positive reinforcement and reward-based training are alternatives to force and punishment that focus on strengthening the bond between the dog and their guardian. This yields far more successful long-term results than force and punishment.
Socialisation is also important for your dog, as it helps them to become more secure and confident in their environment. Consistency is also key when it comes to training a dog, as dogs need to understand what we expect of them and should be allowed time to process new information. Finally, it’s important to build trust with your dog, as this will help to ensure a secure and healthy relationship.
Force and punishment should not be used to alter a dog’s behaviour. Not only can it be damaging to a dog’s wellbeing, the use of these techniques often yields short-term results that can be difficult to maintain over the long term. Instead, positive reinforcement and reward-based training, socialisation, and building trust with your dog can help to encourage behavioural changes in more natural way that take the welfare and ethics of the animal into consideration. By doing this, you can create a secure and loving environment for your dog, leading to better mental health and a stronger bond between you and your pup.
Learn more about Aggressive Responses in dogs with The ISCP Diploma Course on the topic and get a free year in the ISCP professional subscription.