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Train Your Dog Without Smacking

Updated on August 9, 2017
Stephanie Purser profile image

Proud owner of two dogs; one Chihuahua X Papillon, and one American Staffordshire. An animal lover and advocate in general.

My American Staffordshire enjoying a day out.
My American Staffordshire enjoying a day out.

Trust is Better Than Fear

Dog's aren't called 'man's best friend' for no reason. They are faithful companions and loyal to no end. But to have this rewarding relationship with your pet, you first need to build a foundation of love and respect.

Dog's are social animals and their individual nature says a lot about their upbringing. If a dog is treated badly, it's reflected in aggressive or fearful behavior by the animal. If they are well nurtured and treated with respect, they are more likely to be passive and obedient.

When it comes to training and disciplining your dog, it's how you do it that will have a long term influence on your pet's feelings towards you and other humans. Smacking your pet can have a negative long term effect on their attitudes toward people, their relationship with you and their behavior.

Positive Reinforcement as a Trust Builder

Positive reinforcement refers to rewarding your dog for correct or desirable behavior. When you put time and effort into training your pet, you reward them when they perform the desired behavior. In providing them with this training you give them an opportunity to build trust in your instructions and in you.

Say you want to teach your puppy how to "sit". You start by repeating the word at your pup. In the beginning it's important to reward any behavior that resembles the desired one to 'shape' the behavior (This means if the pup leans back half way like they were about to sit but didn't quite go all the way, you still give them a treat). As they I'm begin to learn, you only reward the full and proper sit.

Now the pup knows what you want from them when you say the word "sit". To negatively reinforce this behavior you simply do not reward the dog when they fail to complete the command. If this is taught to the dog early they will have a correct response for the command and will use it when requested.

Being well trained in a manner of correct responses will enable the owner to have effective verbal control over them. And from the dog's perspective they will trust that you, the owner can control their surroundings as much as you control their behavior.

You will have a strong bond with your pet and because they are trained you won't need to punish unwanted behavior as much. Your pet will just know the right thing to do because you taught them.

Being well trained means pets can be close with their family.
Being well trained means pets can be close with their family.

Punishing Undesirable Behavior Without Smacking

Depending on the nature of the behavior smacking is almost never necessary. And it is a fast way to destroy your dog's respect for you. Smacking or worse, beating an animal only teaches them to be fearful of you which can lead to aggression.

One age old conditioning tool is correction spray. It is so effective that some "shock collars" have a spray mechanism built in. It is best used as an instant response to bad behavior. The dog will pair the behavior with the spray and avoid this happening again by not pereforming the behavior. A touch of lemon juice can be added to water to make correction spray.

Time out's are effective but only if used correctly. Time outs can be where the dog is sent to sit on their bed for doing something wrong. Or something can be taken away from them. For example, if your dog had a bone and then growled at another dog who approached you may remove the bone from them for a short time.

Removal of a desired object or food until the correct behavior is displayed is another effective punishment. For example, when you are about to take your dog for a walk, you may wish them to sit patiently while you put their collar or harness on. I find that my dog carries on a bit before a walk. So showing him his harness and then hanging it up again and waiting for him to sit patiently, means having to behave to get what he wants.

And finally, removing yourself and your approval is an appropriate punishment in cases of innapropriate human contact. For instance, if your dog jumps up at people when they come in the front door, you can remove your interaction with the dog until they display correct behavior. So keeping your hands behind your back and looking up, ignoring your pooch until they stop the undesirable behavior.

You can be creative with punishments if you know your pet well enough. I for one think it's really funny when my dog is refusing to leave the park to get in the car and pretend I'm going to drive off on him. I'll roll the car a foot forward and them swing the door open. My dog will run and jump straight in every time and cracks me up. Life's just more fun when you don't smack!

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© 2017 Stephanie Purser


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