Properly Disciplining Your Dog

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While at a relative’s house earlier this month, I was abruptly reminded of why it is not a good idea to “punish” your dog with physical or intimidating means.

We were all at a 4th of July gathering and one of the guests was leaving. He had gotten some kind of newspaper circular from another guest and had rolled it up in his hand. The home owner’s dog was standing by the door as the guest was leaving and when he turned to say goodbye to the dog the dog growled, snarled and lunged at the hand with the rolled up circular in it. Luckily I was standing right there and grabbed the dog by the collar and directed his attention to me and moved him away avoiding any further incident. The dog owner was apalled and could not imagine why the dog went after the guest. I asked if a rolled up newspaper had ever been used to “punish” the dog. The answer was “No, it was a magazine and we did that a long time ago – not recently!”

Many people use these kinds of tactics when their dog exhibits a behavior they don’t like.  The dog may stop the behavior, making the owner think the correction worked well. However, this only intimidates the dog to be afraid. It does not change the dog’s thought process regarding what the acceptable behavior may be.  Eventually, the dog will have enough of the correction and respond how he sees fit and the undesireable behavior will return. If you want your dog to do the right thing, show him what the right thing is and reward it!  Punishing the “bad” behavior and not showing the dog what you expect leads to a fearful and confused dog. Teach the dog to make the right choice by using positive rewards (i.e. treats, praise, petting, toys) when he returns the desired behavior and ignore the undesirable behavior paying no attention. You will be amazed at how quickly your dog figures out what you want from him!

Maureen Henderson is a certified professional dog trainer and an AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator. She is a volunteer at the SPCA TampaBay, Humane Society of Pinellas and Florida Boxer Rescue, Inc.  She lives with 2 chihuahuas, 1 xoloitzcuintle, 1 boxer and a chow/lab mix.  She is the owner of Sit,Down,Stay Dog Training.

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