Hit a Dog - Does Hitting and Beating a Dog Work?
One of the most common ways of dog discipline is to slap a dog on the muzzle. When I was growing up, another popular method is to beat a dog with a rolled up newspaper. Nowadays, that has pretty much gone out of style. Instead, it has been replaced by jabbing or poking the dog with a finger, pushing the dog down in an alpha roll, or applying pain through a remote or shock collar.
Does hitting and beating a dog work?
Are these methods effective for stopping bad dog behaviors?
Some people suggest that physical dominance techniques such as these are most effective because dogs are pack animals. As such, they only understand the language of dominance and in particular, physical dominance. To become an effective pack leader, we must hit and beat our dog, because that is the only way to get them to follow our lead.
Is this true? Can leadership only be achieved through pain and physical domination?
In this article, we consider all of these important questions and issues.
Does Hitting or Beating a Dog Work?
When we hit or beat a dog, we are applying pain to the dog. In particular, we apply pain to more sensitive parts of a dog's body, for example, his ears or muzzle. This pain is a stimulus that the dog absolutely does not enjoy. When applied with the right amount of force and timing, an aversive stimulus will cause a dog to stop his current behavior in order to avoid further pain and stress.
Not all aversive dog training involve pain. Some methods, such as shaking a can of pennies, uses an unpleasant sound to discourage bad dog behavior.
Not all aversive methods are equal. Some people suggest that if you shout at your dog, then that is equal to giving him electric shocks because both are aversive methods. This is clearly false.
All other things being equal, pain is a much stronger aversive stimulus than a loud noise. It also carries much greater risks.
In addition, an aversive stimulus can be applied with different strengths and duration. If we hit a dog with more force, it will cause a stronger aversive response. Similarly, we can apply an electric shock for a millisecond, second, or more.
Does hitting or beating a dog work?
That depends on what we mean by work.
It can discourage bad behaviors when applied with the proper force, timing, and redirection. However, pain based aversive techniques are very risky. If not perfectly applied, studies show that they significantly increase stress, lower quality of life, and may even increase dog aggression.
Dog Dominance & Pack Leadership
Some people claim that hitting, beating, or other physical dominance techniques are more effective because dogs are pack animals. To become a leader to our dog or dog pack, we must speak to them with pokes, jabs, slaps, hits, and electric shocks. Anything else is just humanizing the dog and treating him like a baby.
Indeed it is very true that dogs are pack animals. This means that they are social beings that should not be left alone for long periods of time locked up in the backyard. Just because dogs are pack animals does not lead to the false conclusion that they only understand the language of physical dominance.
Do dogs try to physically dominate each other?
Sometimes. The concept of dominance exists for dogs, but it also exists for non-pack animals. Lions for example. have dominance over most other animals because they have size, power, and very big teeth. We have even greater dominance not because of our physical strength and speed, but because of our brains and opposable thumbs.
Therefore, dominance does not mean physical dominance.
It is true that dominance can be achieved with big teeth, strength, and speed like the lions. However, the more effective form of dominance is not achieved through pain, hitting, and beating, but rather through the control of resources.
Dogs are not human, and humans are not dogs. We do not have sharp teeth, we cannot run very fast, and in a physical contest, we will lose to our dogs. Instead of trying to poorly imitate our dogs with hits, jabs, and alpha-rolls, we should do what we are good at - gain dominance through the control of resources.
Dogs may stop a behavior when we hit, beat, finger-jab, or alpha roll them not because they think we are a meaner dog, but because they want to avoid further pain and stress. This has nothing to do with being pack animals or even with dominance.
Risks of Hitting or Beating a Dog
One of the key risks of hitting or beating our dog is that he may start to learn that we (and in general people) are the source of pain and stress. That is why it is very important to redirect the source of our aversive corrections.
If we spend most of the time physically correcting our dog without proper redirection, our dog will learn to associate a hand or a person coming near him as a threat. This may lead to several responses -
- A fearful dog will most likely try to flee first. However, if running away is not an option or if the dog feels cornered, he will probably try to protect himself with his teeth.
- A more confident and stubborn dog will most likely fight back to keep the threat away.
- Dogs that are somewhere in-between may choose appeasement behavior such as rolling over and exposing their belly. They may also exhibit other calming signals including lip licking, turning away, etc. Through these appeasement behaviors a dog is indicating that he is not a threat so that hopefully, he can avoid a conflict.
This is why hitting and beating a dog can lead to increased aggression, and loss of trust. However, some dogs may choose appeasement behavior, which is when we say the techniques are working. But even in these cases, there is still a lack of trust, and an increased level of anxiety and stress for the dog.
An Alternative Method to Hitting or Beating a Dog
Instead of applying pain through hitting, beating, jabbing, or poking, we can use a reward stimulus instead of an aversive stimulus.
Contrary to what some people may say, reward techniques can be used to encourage behaviors, train commands, and also stop bad dog behaviors.
In aversive training we discourage a behavior by applying a negative stimulus (e.g. pain), and remove the stimulus to encourage a behavior. In reward training we encourage a behavior by applying a positive stimulus, and remove the stimulus to discourage bad behaviors.
For example, if puppy is biting on curtains we can stop that behavior by taking away some of puppy's freedoms. We do this by using body blocks to get puppy away from the curtain area, giving puppy the "go to your bed" command, or putting puppy into a brief time-out.
Since biting the curtain results in an undesirable consequence, i.e., loss of freedom, puppy will reduce the frequency of that behavior. Instead, puppy will repeat behaviors such as going to his bed, because he gets rewarded for them.
Unlike aversive training, reward training is a lot less risky, less stressful, and less likely to increase dog aggression. Reward training helps to build a strong bond with our dog that is based on trust, and a good quality of life.
Some people say that reward training does not work on aggressive dogs or stubborn dogs.
This is false.
Truly stubborn dogs respond much better to reward training because when faced with an aversive stimulus, dominant and stubborn dogs are more likely to fight back.
In the show DogTown, which airs on the National Geographic Channel, the trainers use only reward methods to rehabilitate many difficult cases including Michael Vick's fighting pit bulls.
Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures.
~~[ His Holiness The Dalai Lama ]
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