We’ve all been there. It’s been a long day at work, and the last thing you want to do is cook yourself a meal. So you stop for a fast food burger. Not the best choice, nutritionally speaking, but a satisfying one.
Your next mistake is leaving it unattended while you go to fetch a beverage, forgetting that your pup likes burgers almost as much as you do.
Your temper flares when you realize that he has snatched your meal and downed it in one gulp, and before you know it, you’ve hit your dog out of anger!
What happens when a dog is physically punished?
So, now that you’ve struck your canine companion, the question is, “Who feels worse – you or the animal? “ And, will any good come of it at all?
Adrienne Janet Farracelli, certified dog trainer,” explains why there are a number of arguments against hitting a dog.
First, it hurts!
Dogs have as finely a developed nervous system as people, and feel pain just as effectively.
They may not understand why you did it, but they certainly will understand that you have hurt them. And, the fear induced by the pain may cause them to retaliate with a bite.
Hitting can cause many dog behavior problems . They may become apprehensive, overly submissive, or take to cowering in your presence. Is this the kind of companion you want? I don’t think so.
Hitting your dog can damage the great bond that exists between you two, sowing fear and distrust where there should be faith and affection.
Striking your companion in any way, be it hitting or kicking, shows a basic misunderstanding of the relationship between you.
Studies have shown that, contrary to a widespread popular belief, bad behavior by your pup is not an attempt to exert dominance.
Thus, physical retaliation in the form of hitting or kicking the pet will not lead them to accept you as the dominant member of the pack. You will merely become an adversary.
Cruelty on your part does not produce an alpha bond, which must be built on trust, not fear.
Patricia McConnell, professor at the University of Wisconsin, cites a 2009 study that states that owners that were the most aggressive and confrontational with their pets also experienced a kickback of aggression from the pets.
On the other side, a 1968 research by Richard Solomon at the University of Pennsylvania emphasized the fact that unless discipline is administered when the animal is caught in the act, he will not link it with his bad behavior.
What this means is that your pet cannot reason as a human child would. You cannot tell him that the smack on the nose he receives today is for the piddling on the carpet last Tuesday. All he will recall is the smack on the nose, and who gave it to him.
But, while your pup does not use logic as well as your child might, studies have equated his reaction to physical punishment, and the understanding of it, at about the level of a human of two or three year old.
An article in the journal “Pediatrics” found that children spanked at the age of three will become more aggressive by age five, according to a research by Catherine Taylor of Tulane University.
Seeming to confirm this, Meghan Herron, of the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, cites that 43 percent of dogs which were hit or kicked as part of a behavioral dog training program showed increased aggression, as opposed to those trained using negative vocal feedback such as “Shhh!” or “No! No!”.
Only slightly more, about six percent, responded with an increased level of aggression when trained using leash correction techniques.
To sum it all up. It would seem that hostility on the part of the dog owner or trainer will result in not a well trained animal, but simply a more aggressive one. One that may, indeed, bite the hand that feeds it if that hand becomes a threat.
Do dogs remember bad experiences?
According to a recent study in “Current Biology”, our canine friends may be capable of episodic memory. This is the ability to travel back in time to recall specific events, places, and the emotional responses connected to them.
This type of memory is different from semantic memory which relates only to those events which relate to survival.
The ability to accrue episodic memories indicates the possibility of self-awareness, and has been suggested in such divergent species as rats, primates, and pigeons.
So, when your pooch looks at you with those somewhat fearful or distrustful eyes it is entirely within the realm of possibility that he is remembering some previous occasion when you did treat him harshly.
Dogs learn from their environment just like people do, and they can keep memories of their own for a long time.
We can surely see evidence of memory in our animals, especially those rescued from not so great situations in the past in which they were forced to develop a fight or flight reaction.
An aggressive dog may be reacting to memories of abuse, and will respond by biting, teeth baring, or growling. His body language will show all types of these violent reactions.
A pooch who has been abused will be overly submissive. And one who has been neglected will constantly beg for attention and form an unhealthy attachment.
All this is evidence that our four legged friends do, indeed, recall their past, and it is up to you to make sure that the memories they form now, under your care, are healthy and happy ones.
Quite a few studies have shown that your four legged friend remembers far more than you think, and this could be the basis of building a loving bond, or a negative, distrustful one.
What you do with your canine buddy today will resonate in all your future interactions, so it is to your advantage to build a positive relationship. To do so, treat your furry friend with affection and respect.
Your pooch is not likely to forget that smack on the nose as easily as you do.
How to discipline your dog without resorting to physical violence?
So, how exactly should you discipline your four-legged friend?
First, know by heart that hitting or kicking, no matter how angry you may be, is never acceptable.
The burger may have been delicious, but it’s not worth the damage to your relationship that a self-satisfying smack may deliver.
If you had caught him in the act, you could have made him surrender his prize immediately, scolded him with a stern “No!” while maintaining eye contact and perhaps offering him something more appropriate.
But hitting him after the fact will do nothing to assuage the problem. He will not link the burger theft with the punishment, but merely take note of your cruel behavior.
And shouting is never a good idea either.
Your furry friend is certainly familiar with your usual friendly tone. It is sufficient to simply speak in a firm, authoritarian way to get your point across.
If you continually shout at your canine buddy, he will quickly learn to ignore you. Just like a normal child!
Using your voice for disciplinary purposes is part of a positive reinforcement dog training program.
Positive reinforcement works by rewarding your dog when he does something good and ignoring his misbehavior.
Other ways to apply this method are confining him to time out, or to take away his toys or deny him the attention he craves.
You need never apply a physical punishment when other means based on positive reinforcement can work just as well.
Spanking your pooch can be just as detrimental to the animal as spanking your child is.
He may become aggressive and bite back. He could learn to dislike and distrust you, and so avoid your company altogether.
And he may become insecure and fearful, qualities which will add nothing to his quality of life, or yours.
As much as disciplining your four legged friend may seem similar to disciplining an infant, you must, of course, remember that your furry friend is not an infant.
His mind does not work the same way.
A dog may, in fact, feel bad about something he has done, but that does not mean he will automatically relate that sharp blow or kick as retaliation for his actions.
All he will see is that hand or foot connecting with his flesh in a painful manner. And the next time you’re feeling playful, and reach to him, he may associate your hand with that painful blow to unexpected consequences.
Neither one of you will appreciate the outcome.
Moreover, you need to consider all the possibilities for any sudden change of behavior.
Is it possible his new habit of soiling the carpet is the result of a medical condition? You should explore the possibility before embarking on any discipline at all.
How to leave anger out of the equation when disciplining your dog?
First thing, don’t get angry!
Your four-legged friend does not think like you. He didn’t eat that burger to piss you off, or to deprive you of the satisfaction of doing so. He ate the burger because it was in his reach, and he was hungry.
You know it’s just as much your fault as it is his, but you gave in to your anger and frustration, and gave him a whack.
So, how do you make sure history does not repeat itself ?
First, remember that you are the one who is angry, and you should first deal with that issue.
- Calm down. Count to ten, or try taking deep breaths.
- Shift your focus to something else, look for the positive.
That calorie filled and greasy burger wasn’t a smart decision for an evening dinner anyway, was it? You don’t have to go as far as to convince yourself that your fido was doing you a favor, but dial back the hostility a bit, okay?
- Get yourself under control before you deal with the situation.
You can’t expect your four legged friend to behave like a a civilized person if you’re behaving like an animal, can you? And any discipline you decide on must be administered in a logical fashion, and must fit the crime.
It’s illogical to punish petty theft with a public flogging, isn’t it? So, burger theft may be worth a sharp “No!”, and redirection to his own dinner bowl.
Do dogs forgive their owners?
But once you’ve done the deed, that is, hit your fido, will he ever forgive you?
The answer is yes, in a manner of speaking.
According to Discover magazine, your pooch have emotions similar to those of a toddler.
He can feel fear, happiness, distress, and love, but not much else. He is incapable of much more, so actual “forgiveness” may be beyond his capabilities. And the emotions he does experience are based on a pattern of behavior, not specific instances.
You may have noticed that many pets in shelters display signs of aggression, or submission. These behaviors are based on the patterns of behavior displayed by their former associates.
These same animals may easily take to newly introduced humans, as they have no memory patterns associated with those particular new friends.
They do not, really, recall specific instances the way humans do. So, in all likelihood, your fido will not have built himself a memory of your specific misstep.
Strictly speaking, he may not, in reality, forgive you, as much as forget the incident.
It’s up to you to refrain from creating a pattern of behavior which he will be unable to omit. And give him a couple weeks to cool off after the burger incident!
So, as you can see, it’s not the end of the world if you’ve lost control on a single occasion.
Getting your dog to stop misbehaving takes time and a lot of positive training techniques.
Given a foundation of love and trust, one instance of violence should be easily overcome. Just see you don’t make a habit of it.