The Science Says: Don’t Hit Your Dog
The term "discipline" is thrown around loosely in the dog training world. You'll find all kinds of opinions about when and how to discipline a dog, but how do you know what to believe? While you may not believe a trainer's advice not to hit your dog, it's hard to ignore the scientific research that shows how damaging it can be to discipline your dog in this way.
Researchers have been studying dog behavior and cognition for decades, including one important study in the 1960's that showed that unless you are able to catch a dog in the act of an undesired behavior, it's unlikely that your dog will make the connection that he's done something wrong. Any reaction after the fact will only lessen your dog's trust in you and can cause him to fear you.
What many dog owners don't realize is that when they physically punish or intimidate a dog for an undesired behavior, although in the moment it may seem like the behavior has stopped, they are actually opening the floodgates for fear and aggression.
In 2009, researchers conducted a survey to determine the effects of confrontational training methods. The owners that were the most aggressive and confrontational with their dogs also experienced a kickback of aggression from their dogs. 43% of dogs responded with aggression when they were hit or kicked, 38% of dogs responded aggressively to having their owners forcibly remove an object from their mouths, 36% responded aggressively to being muzzled, 29% to a "dominance down," (also known as an alpha roll) and 26% to being shaken by the jowl or scruff. Additional studies on shelter dogs have shown that attempts to "assert dominance" over dogs results in an increase in aggression.
With these types of dangerous and ineffective techniques being used on dogs, is it any wonder that dog bites and dog attacks are on the rise all over the world? Dogs trained using positive reinforcement and reward-based techniques show less stress, less aggression, and are actually more receptive to training.
Positive training doesn't mean permissive training that allows the dog to get away with bad behaviors, but it's rather a more humane way to help your dog learn, think, and cope in our domestic world. If we can trade in the long-outdated view that our dogs need to be dominated into submission, we're going to see a drastic drop in aggression and bites from our four-legged companions.
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