You should think again before shouting at your dog when it misbehaves

Lisa Walden
Photo credit: gradyreese - Getty Images

From Country Living

Whether it's chewing furniture or spreading muddy paws across the floor, stressed-out dog owners can often be quick to shout at their learning puppies when they do something wrong. But a new study has found that owners who adopt "punishment-based" training with their dogs may actually be making their animal depressed.

According to the research by the University of Porto in Portugal, shouting and scolding methods of behaviour management can result in negative consequences in the future.

Scientist Ana Catarina, who led the study, recruited 42 dogs from reward-based training schools, which use food or play to encourage good behaviours. She also enlisted pups from punishment-based programs, which use negative techniques including shouting.

The researchers filmed the two groups of dogs during training and tested their saliva before and after to look for the stress hormone, cortisol. Sadly, those dogs who were in the negative reinforcement group showed more signs of stress, lip-licking and yawning.

Those in the reward-based training groups showed almost no changes in their cortisol levels, both in the group and once they returned home.

Photo credit: Catherine Falls Commercial - Getty Images

To find out whether the stressful effects lingered, researchers measured how the dogs responded to food rewards. Their findings discovered:

  • The dogs from the reward-based training ran excitedly to the food bowl
  • Those from punishment-based programs moved much more slowly to the bowl, unsure of whether to take the food or not

"[Reward-based training] may take time, but so what? At least the dog isn’t living in fear or constant stress," the researchers told Science Mag.

Marc Bekoff, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Colorado also commented on the study explaining: "[Punishment] training may seem to work in the short run, but these methods can have future negative consequences. These dogs are living in perpetual stress."

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