So your dog had an accident in the house. Or they ruined your favorite sweater. Or you found dog hairs all over your couch and your dog has been told many times that it is not allowed on the couch.
Dogs are so wonderful. But, like toddlers, they still engage in a bit of mischief. And also like toddlers, telling them "no" is not always enough. Sometimes they won't listen, and they need to be shown that their behavior is not okay.
But dogs are not toddlers. They're dogs. One of the first rules of dog behavior is that dogs are association-based animals. They make direct connections based on what happened immediately prior. That is why punishment frequently doesn't work.
Humans can associate an action with a response. If a child breaks a vase, and you say "that was not okay" and put them in time out, they know that it's because they broke the vase.
Dogs are similar, except they associate the action immediately prior with the response that immediately follows. This is where trouble starts for dog owners. If you come home and your dog has had an accident on the floor, your dog has already performed 100 more behaviors since that accident. If you punish them, they will not associate it with the accident but may associate it with you coming home. Rubbing their nose in it won't help, as it will only make them fear the smell of urine, not the accident itself.
Similarly, if you see a dog biting your shoes and you tell them to drop it and come to you, you've introduced a new step - by telling them to come to you before you punish them, they feel they are being punished for coming - not for their previous behavior of biting the shoe.
Dogs are, as a species, simply not that good at understanding any punishment. Study after study has shown that while dogs can theoretically learn when "punished" correctly, it is difficult for them. They have a much easier time understanding positive reinforcement. If you reward them when they do something you like, they will learn much faster than punishing them for something they don't.
In addition, physical punishments will never work. Not only are they abusive to the dog, but they also teach your dog to fear you rather than teach your dog not to perform a behavior.
But there are safe ways to let a dog know its behavior is not okay. A loud yelp, a firm "no," taking a treat or toy away, or a tug on a leash can send a message without harming the dog.
However, these "punishments" only work when they are instantaneous. They have to occur while your dog is engaged in the unwanted behavior, with no steps in between. That's why, by the time you want to punish your dog, it's probably already too late. Your dog has moved on, and any punishment they receive will no longer be associated with the behavior they showed.
No one wants to punish their dog, and punishments are often ineffective anyway. Dog training with positive reinforcement is the best way to get rid of unwanted dog behaviors.
But there's another tool you can use that can be very successful - midday dog walks. Exercise is one of the best known ways to reduce unwanted dog behavior, since many of them are due to boredom and excess energy. They can also help your dog learn to control urination and accidents, giving you even more benefits, and your dog will be both happier and healthier for these regular walks.
If you'd like dog walking in Lake Mary, Sanford, and Longwood, contact FurBabies Home Pet Care today.