Should You Punish Your Dog?

5 reasons why punishment is a bad idea – plus, better ways to teach your dog to behave.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
5-minute read
Episode #133

If you’ve read a few of my articles you already know that the harshest punishment I ever advise for a dog is a time-out. This week, 5 reasons why modern dog trainers avoid the collar yanks, scruff shakes, and shaker bottles full of pennies so common in the bad old days.

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1. Punishment Is Inefficient

Let’s say you’ve got a puppy. Lucky you! But said puppy, being a puppy, is busy exploring the world with her teeth. She chews on the rug. She chews on your chair legs. She chews on you. Long story short, she chews on everything in sight and some things that aren’t. How do you teach her not to?

Punishment is inefficient and hard to gauge well. And it doesn’t teach your dog what you do want.

Of course, you can shake a penny can to scare her every time you catch her chewing on something inappropriate or dangerous. But that’s an endless list. Besides, you can punish Puppalini day in and day out for chewing the wrong thing, and you still won’t have taught her what in the world is okay for her to chew.

A much more efficient strategy is to supply Puppalini with appropriate chews, such as food-dispensing toys. If you also prevent access to those chair legs and Louboutins, she won’t have a chance to develop an interest in them. Keep chew toys handy when you’re playing with her, so you can divert her to them as soon as she shows any signs of wanting to use her pointy little puppy teeth on you.

Occasionally you may need to give Puppalini a time-out because she’s made a mistake or just needs a minute to settle down. But if you find yourself giving a lot of time-outs every time you interact with her, step back and think about what you can do better to prevent her from making mistakes. You’re supposed to be the smarter partner, right?


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).