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HITTING YOUR DOG (Joan Klucha)

Dog in ParkNormally I am spewing forth the benefits of positive teaching, which involves showing a dog how to do things correctly and making sure they follow through with your requests. And I have discussed discipline in the past. Maybe not in the context that some people associate discipline, meaning that discipline equals punishment. But rather that discipline involves maintaining consistent (disciplined) order and structure for a dog to live within, thereby not allowing them to stray outside those boundaries and engage in inappropriate behavior.

But let's face it, sometimes our dogs stray outside of our boundaries, regardless of how consistent we are and we feel compelled to punish our dogs.

What kind of punishment is appropriate? Or is it appropriate at all?

I really wish there were easy answers to those questions, but there aren't. How you punish a dog really has a lot to do with your personal beliefs about punishment in general. To me, punishment is the addition of something negative when the dog is caught in the act of doing something wrong such as an assertive tone saying "Bad dog" or "Phooey that" or giving a dog a brief time-out period. This time-out period has nothing to do with allowing the dog to reflect on what it has done wrong, but rather segregation from its pack members from whom it gets the rewards of affection and praise.

In no uncertain terms should hitting your dog be considered appropriate punishment - it is certainly abuse. But I still see people choosing to hit their dogs, be it a slap on the nose or on the rump. Hitting is a reaction of frustration from us. There is nothing in the natural canine vocabulary of social gestures and postures that mimics slapping. There is one behavior that fearful dogs display that could be interpreted as an assault like hitting. That is when a dog lashes out at another dog in fear. The intention is to cause quick pain and then vacate the area in fear of retribution. When we hit a dog we can assume that is how they interpret that action. We are afraid of them and are lashing out. As a result we send a clear message that we are unpredictable and therefore not capable of being a good pack leaders as true pack leaders are confident and predictable.

I personally am a very firm believer in discipline rather than punishment. As I said earlier the boundaries that you set for your dog should be consistent and disciplined. What was off limits yesterday is off limits today and tomorrow. And what was allowed yesterday is allowed today and tomorrow. When a dog has this disciplined, consistent order from all members of its pack, it rarely ever misbehaves and there is really never a need for punishment. By showing this level of disciplined order your dog also assumes that you are a competent leader of its pack and therefore has no need to challenge that position. When we are inconsistent with the boundaries that our dog is to live within is when our dog assumes we are incompetent of a leadership position and begins a to challenge it through inappropriate displays of behavior.

Dogs are not creatures that live within the shadow of punishment. Meaning they don't go slinking around waiting for an opportunity to be bad and hoping that they don't get caught, like criminals. They are creatures that live and thrive within the disciplined boundaries of order and structure and that is when they are truly happy and willing to please us with good behavior.

 
When we hit a dog we can assume that is how they interpret that action. We are afraid of them and are lashing out. As a result we send a clear message that we are unpredictable and therefore not capable of being a good pack leaders as true pack leaders are confident and predictable.
 
In no uncertain terms should hitting your dog be considered appropriate punishment - it is certainly abuse.
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