You might not think too much about the consequences of yelling at your dog, but it turns out, you really should.
What was once thought of as harmless mild punishment style training is now proving to have lasting effects on our beloved companions. It’s time to think twice before yelling.
Let’s say you get a new dog or a puppy, and they have an accident on the carpet. There are two kinds of reactions – positive reinforcement, and negative reinforcement. What does each one mean?
Positive reinforcement is commonly known as a reward based method, and it is done by reinforcing good behavior with a treat or play time. By using positive reinforcement, you receive a well-trained pup that is eager to please.
Negative reinforcement is based on asserting dominance on your dog through fear of punishment. This could be yelling, leash pulling, hitting, shock collars, or any other form of “corrections” during training in an effort to teach them basic obedience. While this technique may have come first in the world of dog training, it is now shown to have lasting effects on a dog’s mental well-being.
To find out how true companion dogs reacted to punishment, the scientists at the University of Porto in Portugal (study led by Ana Catarina Vieira de Castro) recruited 42 dogs from reward-based training programs which used food or play as rewards, and 50 dogs from negative reinforcement style training that included yelling and leash jerking.
In order to accurately measure their stress levels, each dog had their saliva tested for the stress hormone cortisol before and after training, as well as had their training sessions recorded.
The short term results of more “fear based” training left the dogs with higher levels of cortisol in their saliva during training, as well as at home in the following hours after their training sessions. They also displayed physical examples of stress such as licking their lips and yawning. Dogs with positive reinforcement training did not experience any spikes in their cortisol levels or stress related body language.
Okay, so we see short term results, but what about long term results and effects of these types of positive or negative reinforcements?
Another study with 79 dogs was observed, where reward versus non-reward was observed, and the results of the negative reinforcement seemed to be associated with separation anxiety and multiple behavioral problems. The more severe the punishment-based training they received, the more drastic the results.
This study proves that our style of dog training can have lasting impacts on our furry friends. Though the effectiveness of training style were not addressed, nor which option is “better”, it’s clear that the lasting impact on a dog is quite sad, and we need to be aware of how our actions impact those we love.
As pet parents, it’s up to us to provide a life filled with love and comfort for our furry friends. By focusing on reward style training, we can help our dogs understand the basics of obedience training without the fear and stress that can come along with punishment style methods.
Though our dogs can come with their own set of frustrating quirks, they can be addressed in a kind and fear-free way. The next time you have the urge to yell at your furry BFF, remember that their happiness and comfort lays in your hands.