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Why Punishment Won't Work

Punishing your dog for things he did when you were out when you return home will not solve the problem because the punishment comes too late after the 'bad' behaviour for your dog to learn from it.



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If punishment is to be effective, it needs to be immediate (go to 'How Dogs Learn').  Your dog can, of course, remember what he has done.  He knows he chewed up the cushions a few hours ago, or went to the toilet on the floor half an hour before you returned.  But he cannot link the punishment you give when you return home with his previous actions, even if you take him to the ‘scene of the crime’ to punish him.  If a child has drawn on the walls, you can link their actions to any consequences with an explanation, but we have no words that a dog will understand to link ‘crime’ with ‘punishment’ which is why scolding or punishing after the event, or when you return home, will not work. 


After many repetitions of punishment on the owner’s arrival, some dogs will begin to learn that they only get punished when there is a mess in the house.  They will then begin to ‘look guilty’ or show appeasement behaviour only when there is a mess, giving owners even more ‘evidence’ that they know they have done wrong.  However, the dog has simply learned a straight forward association between mess and punishment on your arrival, rather than that he is being punished because of what he did earlier.


If you need to prove this to yourself, tear up some paper or pour a small amount of water on the floor, go out, and then, when you come in, point to the mess and begin to scold.  Your dog will show the same appeasement gestures even though he is entirely innocent.




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