Why Punishment Fails in Dog Training

As you all know, I am a Positive Reinforcement Dog Trainer, and am against any use of physical or verbal punishment. Scientific studies have proven that punishment fails in dog training, and here are just a few of the reasons why:

  • The use of punishment is training your dog what NOT to do, while using positive reinforcement trains the dog what TO do, therefore less training steps.
  • Punishment can suppress certain behaviors, such as growling or baring teeth. These signs are important to know when your dog is feeling uncomfortable, so you can remove them from the situation. If your dog is being punished for these behaviors, they may skip the warning signs and go straight to biting or attacking. I never reward for growling or baring teeth, I  only do for calm behavior, however they do not get punished for doing so. I choose to redirect that behavior so that they offer me something like eye contact, making them choose to do that over growling or baring teeth.
  • Dogs feed off of our emotions. Punishment is giving off a negative and frustrating emotion, making your dog feel that way too. You want your dog to enjoy training and to WANT to do things to please you, rather than being afraid to do something to displease you.

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  • If your timing is off, you will confuse your dog as to what behavior you are punishing. This can give your dog fear aggression when they do not know what they are doing wrong. Imagine if we were walking down the street and every time a blue car drove by I kicked you, but a couple times I kicked late while a different car is driving by. You are going to be paranoid the entire time we are walking that I am going to kick you.
  • You want training to be fun for your dog so they want to do the things you ask. If you are constantly punishing, your dog will eventually give up because they aren’t sure what you actually want them to do.
  • Using punishment can sometimes be reinforcing the behavior. For example, when a dog jumps up they are looking for attention, therefore verbal punishment and pushing can seem like play.
  • When using punishment, you need to be punishing the behavior EVERY TIME it occurs or else they are self rewarding. When you use positive reinforcement, you are teaching the dog to choose the right behavior on their own.

So next time you think you are taking the easy way out by using a verbal or physical punishment, think how it is really going to affect your dog. In the long run, don’t you think it is best to train your dog the right behavior from the beginning? You want to have a positive relationship with your dog, not one where they listen to you out of fear.

What training methods have worked for you? Let me know in the comments below!

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