Punished dog? To be or not to be

I have really been fascinated with the role of punishment in dog training. Is it effective? How to use it? When to use it? Besides the obvious of why to use it I found myself needing to use it on my oldest male dog. My dog had a problem with lunging at people.

I knew it was fear based and due to the neighborhood we live in. While walking my dog since 6 months old until now (10 years later) we have been in an estimate of 10 fights with stray dogs.

The screaming, growling, and biting still plays over in my mind. This was a horrible dramatic experience for me and my dog even when I carried around a stick and a pet convincer and some other items.

Anybody who knows me knows my dog is like my son/ partner. I was always with him. We ate together. We slept in the same room(not on the same bed). If I could I would of took my dog to parties with me. I did not have the knowledge that I have now when it comes to dogs and wish I did. My dog ended up not having the proper socialization due to these reasons and me being busy.

I while back I invested in a dog trainer who helped me with Fats (my dog). He introduced me to the ecollar. It worked for a time, but I did not have money to continue lessons. Soon I noticed my dog started to revert back to old ways of dog aggression and lunging at people. I then started to dive deep into understanding punishment and its role in dog training. I realize that my dog is old and I don’t want to put undo stress on him. I would like to help others into clarifying the use of punishment with dogs.

Anytime a dog does a behavior you don’t like the result is punishment, whether negative or positive. Negative punishment is the removal of something your dog wants and positive is adding something your dog doesn't like.

Is punishment effective? It definitely is. Punishment is effective in the sense that it stops bad behavior.

This is why so many pet trainers go to using punishment and pressure style training( make the dog do what you say) very quickly. This is because it works. According to Michael Ellis it works 100% of the time and I agree. You can always make a dog do something. Is this good dog training?

Not what I believe. But this is necessary at certain levels of training. The nuances need to be taken into account. I watched my senior citizen of a dog lunge at strangers. When I gave him a punishment, he suppressed this need to lunge at people. He still felt the need to lunge at people because of some fear, but the punishment suppressed him demonstrating this behavior. This is also important for people to understand.

Just because a dog doesn’t act out a behavior anymore doesn’t mean the dog is cured. Emotions effect dogs big time and judge what they do. If a dog is very fearful they can’t learn. This is why I focus on a dog’s attitude with my clients.

I want the dog to enjoy training and love it. I especially want puppies to be willing to try things. This is the reason why puppies receive no 1-2 combo from me( because I would never hit a dog and I don't want punishment to suppress their drive).

How to use punishment? High levels of correction. Many people would say that I am being harsh and that I have no heart. They must not understand how dogs learn. I would suggest they read Pamela Reid’s book Xcelerated learning for dogs.

I know you want to be kind and start low with correction and work your way higher until the behavior subsides. There is one main flaw in this mindset that hurts your chances of truly eradicating a problem behavior.

That is the fact that dogs adapt to the pain sensation. If you keep subjecting a dog to the same level correction then eventually they will get used to it and it will lose its potency. On the other hand if you go as high as the mountains then you will only need to do it a few times. Why do you think you don't play around with fire?

I can’t remember where I heard this analogy from but it reasonated with me. Imagine that every time you parked your car in the wrong place, instead of a parking ticket, your car exploded. I bet you never park there again with your next car. Nagging low level punishment is like parking tickets. Sure it might make some people think twice but not the majority.

We can’t just know how to use punishment; we also have to know when. The reason I don't punish puppies is because they don’t know what I am asking of them.

It is very important to be fair to the dog. If I correct a dog that has not demonstrated that they know what I am asking of them then the correction can have a dramatic effect on them.

This is how some dogs develop what is called learned helplessness. The dog will eventually stop trying and just give up. If your dog understands what it needs to do to avoid a harsh correction then best believe they will do it.

An example of this is if I ask my dog to recall(come). If we perform the exercise 1,000 times successfully then I’m sure my dog understands it. Therefore, if I tell him to come and he doesn’t he gets a correction. On the other hand, if we have been working on the recall for 1 week and my dog comes to me sometimes, then I will not punish my dog for not coming.

If we follow these principals to using punishment then I am sure we will have no problem with being fair with our dog. We will build a better relationship with man’s and woman’s best friend.