I’m back, Doggists!
Today I am going to talk about a very important issue not very known for those at home: the punishment!
By definition punishment is anything that reduces the likelihood that a behavior will be repeated. There are two types of punishment:
Negative punishment, although sounds worse, applies removing something the dog likes to reduce the likelihood that he does it again. Example: If your dog jumps up to greet people and you stand still ignoring him, eventually he will stop jumping because he’ll associate that jumping does not get him what he wants, which is your attention.
But the punishment that I want to talk during this post is the one called positive. Don’t be fooled by the positive word, it does not mean anything good, just that it is present. Positive punishment applies by adding something that the animal does not like, thereby decreasing the probability of doing it again. Example: discharge from the shock collar whenever he barks.
The use of punishment or other aversive, force, coercive or physical corrections to change the animal’s behavior is common in most dog owners and many trainers, even famous ones.
Some punishments may seem harmless, like shouting to the dog, say “no”, spray the cat with water if jumping on the counter. But it is also common to apply more severe punishments like jerking the dog when wearing a choke or prong collar, beating, among other methods already discussed in the last two posts.
Punishing may seem effective in some situations depending on each animal, but you must know it can cause much damage. In this post we will see the negative effects of punishment one by one:
If it’s applied two minutes later it is useless. This is when you will think that your dog knows what he has done and looks guilty, but he is just showing calming signals because he can notice when you are angry. If the dog wouldn’t have done it and you acted the same way, you could see the same signs “of guilt”.
2.Punishment can strengthen the unwanted behavior. If the animal is not punished every time, as often as he is not being punished is getting rewarded. In psychology intermittent reinforcement is the most effective way to learn a behavior. The animal knows that the reward will come but does not know when, so he’ll keep trying until it comes, and it will. It can be compared with those addicted to slot machines.
3.Intensity of punishment must be high enough. For punishment to be effective it has to be strong enough the first time, if not the dog will get habituated in the end and the same intensity won’t longer work next time.
4.Punishing causes physical damage when administered at a high intensity. For example, choke and prong collars, apart from the pain that cause, can damage the trachea, the vision (for increased brain and consequently eye pressure for instance), back, joints, among other injuries.
5.Punishment can cause many individuals become extremely fearful. Some punishments will not cause physical injury and may not seem severe, but they can cause the animal to become fearful, and this fear can be generalised to other contexts. For example, dogs that carry shock or citronella collars can react with fear to any sound that resembles the sound of predicting the discharge or spray, as it could be a kitchen timer.
6.Punishment empowers aggressive behaviors. Those animals in which the punishment does not work immediately endeavor to avoid punishment to the point of becoming aggressive if necessary. In animals who already show aggressive behaviors will enhance aggressive reactions more intensely.
Punishing endangers the person applying the punishment and anyone nearby, making it more likely to be bitten or attacked.
7.Punishment suppresses behaviors, including those that warn that the dog will bite.
If an animal is aggressive by fear and force is used to punish these fear reactions, it will make the dog more afraid while hiding these fear signs. When he can no longer suppress such signs, he will suddenly act with a more intense aggression and less warning signs. Result: now you have a dog that will attack without warning that he will.
Another common example is to punish pee, which it’s not recommendable at all since the dog will end up learning to pee when you’re not around.
8.Punishment can cause bad associations with the person who implements it or with the environment in which it occurs. This is one of the most dangerous consequences. Example: you pull your dog so he does not approach the dog coming your way; he’ll end up learning that when other dogs approach something bad happens. Another example: you beat, kick or jerk your dog in the park and it turns out that there was a kid nearby; he could associate the presence of children as a predictor that something negative will happen.
9.Punishment does not teach the right behavior. Punishing does not deal with the fact that the unwanted behavior occurs because you have not taught him well before. So it has been reinforced, whether intentionally or not. Punishing either does not give an alternative behavior to teach the dog what is right to do or what we want him to do instead.
Also, although punishing may seem very effective to you, you are not treating the cause of the behavior, you’re only covering the symptoms. Result: We have an unpredictable dog, as we have seen in point 7.
10.What do you punish when you punish your dog? You don’t punish behaviors, you punish emotions.
|WHAT YOU PUNISH ACCORDING TO YOU||WHAT YOU PUNISH ACCORDING TO YOUR DOG|
|Destructive behaviour||Ansiety, stress|
11.Punishment can induce learned helplessness.
This is a psychological condition in which the individual learns to believe he has no control of the situation and that nothing he does will work. It is a mental state of depression and passivity in which they can not learn, they won’t dare to try again, they learn to give up, destroying the person or animal that suffers it. It is a very serious condition.
A famous example is the chained elephants who believe they can not break the chain because when they were young they couldn’t and they stopped trying ever since.
12.Destroys the relationship with your dog. Communication and trust are key to success in coexistence.
Punishment is totally unnecessary. You can have an obedient dog without using force and without causing fear, pain or anxiety. The use of positive reinforcement rather than punishment has been proven to be the most effective way to create a strong bond between dog and owner, and also reduces the chances of aggression in the dog. It is the only way your dog trusts you and can be confident.
Now that you’ve seen how difficult, if not impossible, is to apply punishment right and all the negative and dangerous effects it brings, I am sure you will think twice before doing it. So what do you have to do? Encourage behaviors you want, ignore and minimize your attention to undesirable behaviors without using punishment. Try to foresee also if you see that your dog is about to make a mistake.
Help me spread the word so that everyone knows why we should not punish to educate an animal!
Dog word 😛
See you soon,
- Hutchinson RR. 1977. By-products of aversive control. In: Honig WK, Staddon JER, eds. Handbook of Operant Behavior. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall: 415-431.
- Azrin NH. 1960. Effects of punishment intensity during variable-interval reinforcement. J Exp Anal Behav 3: 123-142.
- Pauli AM, Bentley E, Diehl AK, Miller PE. 2006. Effects of the application of neck pressure by a collar or harness on intraocular pressure in dogs. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc 42(3): 207-211.
- Azrin NH, Rubin HB, Hutchinson RR. 1968. Biting attack by rats in response to aversive shock. J Exp Anal Behav 11: 633-639.
- Herron, ME, Shofer, FS, Reisner I (2009) Survey of the use and outcome of confrontational and non-confrontational training methods in client-owned dogs showing undesired behaviors. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 117 47–54.