I was reading this news article about a man that was abusing a 3 month old puppy with “allegedly kicking him and swinging him in the air.”
After I got over feeling sick to my stomach, I started thinking about force and training and dogs and “correction” and “punishment” and then I started feeling sick again. There is a great division in dog training over whether dogs need to know what they’ve done wrong in order to learn what they’ve done right, but the news article demonstrates that people don’t always have the best judgement or clear understanding of what constitutes “punishment.”
Can we agree that kicking and swinging a puppy or dog in the air is abuse? If we can, then can we agree that a single kick is abuse? Probably not. Everyone has drawn a line for themselves over what is punishment and abuse. A single kick to some may be warranted under certain conditions or with rationalizing, “It’s only one.” But, here’s the real problem. Ready for it? You don’t get to decide what is punishment and what is abuse. The dog decides. Actually, any “learner” decides, whether it’s a child, adult, dog, horse, cat or elephant. We don’t smack children’s hands with rulers any more. We don’t smack wives for disobedience any more. Why are we still smacking animals? Because we assume animals don’t communicate or need the punishment to learn. The good news is, that’s wrong on both counts.
Here’s the study: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201205/is-punishment-effective-way-change-the-behavior-dogs The take away from this one is, “punishing techniques when training dogs tends to increase the aggression in the animals…” Which means we just create a round robin using punishment. Human punishes, dog gets more aggressive, human punishes more, dog gets more aggressive, and on and on and on. At what point do people decide to stop the insanity? When the dog bites someone.
My pondering here today is, why do we have to draw the line between abuse and punishment and correction at all? If we don’t use it, we don’t have to define it or set a limit. In fact, if we use rewards and reinforcement, we don’t have to draw any lines at all. You never hear, “Wow! You really over reinforced that behavior!” Yes, you can give too many treats to animals which can cause obesity, but that’s an easy fix. Just make the treats smaller.
I try to be “force free” in my interaction with my dogs at all times. I need them to trust me if they get out so they won’t run away from me. That only comes with consistently showing them that next to me is a safe place. I can only do that if they aren’t punished for doing things.
It’s time for humans to show they are smarter than the animals they live with. It’s an easy out to hit or kick or yank when you’re frustrated and your dog just ate your favorite shoes. But who’s fault is it? You left the shoes out. What do you want your dog to learn and can you teach it before they do something wrong? Plan your life with your dog, what they’ll need to leave alone, what they’re allowed to have, where they’re allowed to go, and spend time teaching them those things. What if the dog makes a mistake? The answer is simple. You didn’t teach it well enough. Go back and teach it again. Letting go of anger and frustration toward your dog is incredibly freeing. It switches your brain to think ahead, plan activities, plan lessons and create a connection so learning can continue without the fear of punishment. If you feel the need to hit or kick something, try a punching bag.