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The adverse effects punishment can have on your canine companions

The generic way of training canine companions is to administer an aversive consequence directly after an unwanted behavior occurs. Valerie Tynes postulated that punishment can only work if the consequence is consistent with the stimulus, administered in a time frame of one to two seconds and aversive enough to prevent behavior from continuing (Tynes, 2011). The question often raised during aversive conditioning is, when does punishment border on abuse?

Inmate guide dog training
Photo by Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images

There are two types of punishment: positive punishment and negative punishment. Positive punishment results when a negative consequence follows immediately after an undesirable behavior. Negative punishment is the removal of a pleasurable stimulus after the unwanted occurrence (Hiby, Rooney and Bradshaw, 2004). Both styles of punishment fail to teach the non-human animal the desired behavior, but rather create fear of the human parent (Hiby et al., 2004). When inappropriate behaviors continue, the punishment will increase in severity causing the dog to revert to protective mode. By instilling fear in the dog, aggressive behavior toward his or her pet parent and other dogs is the result( Tynes, 2011; Hiby, et al., 2004).

By now, the reader must be thinking, "if I can't use punishment to train my dog, what other training method is there?". Positive reinforcement has been concluded to be "more beneficial to the pet-owning community"(Hiby et al., 2004). Positive reinforcement methods are widely utilized in working dog organizations (e.g. The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association) and law enforcement agencies.

It is often that dogs are trained improperly resulting in abuse, abandonment and euthanization due to problematic behavioral issues. Ask yourself, is the dog problematic or the training technique? Michael Ben Alexander, Ted Friend and Lore Haug found a strong correlation ,in their 2011 study, between performance success and positive training techniques (Alexander, Friend and Haug, 2011). Compared to punishment, which does not teach desired behavior nor ceases undesired behavior, positive reinforcement is a tool that will teach your canine companion desired behavior while protecting his or her overall well being.


Alexander, M., Friend, T., & Haug, L. (2011). Obedience training effects on search dog performance. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 132(3/4), 152-159. doi:10.1016/j.applanim.2011.04.008

Hiby, E. F., Rooney, N. J., & Bradshaw, J. S. (2004). Dog training methods: Their use, effectiveness and interaction with behaviour and welfare. Animal Welfare, 13(1), 63-69.

Tynes, V. V. (2011). Why punishment fails; what works better. Veterinary Medicine, 106(8), 398-400.

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