“I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes, a quickly vanishing
look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that basically
dogs think humans are nuts.” – John Steinbeck
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Hope everyone had a great weekend. The weather here in
Western MA was awesome and the Red Sox beat the Yankees on
opening day – It doesn’t get any better than that!

Anyway, Rach and I had a pile of people over for Easter
Sunday and we had four dogs here to share it with us. Our
two, Rachael’s parents brought their dog and we had my
friend Ted’s beagle.

The subject of dog training always comes up and Rachael’s
cousin started asking me questions about punishment. He
said that all of this positive reinforcement stuff is good
but every once in a while you have to “teach a lesson.”

I informed Rachael’s cousin that you don’t have to go
negative to “teach a lesson.” Lessons can be taught using
positive or negative reinforcement.

I added that the problem with negative reinforcement is
that when we use it, it usually confuses the dog.

For instance, let’s say the dog has a chewing problem. Every
time we leave the house the dog finds something to chew.

When we come home and find that the dog has chewed our shoes,
couch or some other item, we punish the dog. We yell, maybe
smack the dog’s bottom and become very threatening.

The problem is that OUR timing is all wrong. We are punishing
the dog long after the behavior occured. The dog will start
to associate the punishment with homecomings.

The dog watches you leave the house. When you come home he
knows that you are going to turn into a raving lunatic and
start yelling and screaming.

This will cause stress in the dog. Guess what dogs do when
they get stressed?

THEY CHEW!

Now the very behavior we were trying to prevent gets worse.

We get madder and madder, increasing the amount of punishemnt.

The dog basically thinks we are nuts.

Punishment can be very effective when you want to stop a
behavior, but it has to be used properly. Used improperly,
you can confuse your dog.

All the best,

Eric

P.S. If you’d like to learn more about the correct way to
use punishment, check out: Dog Training Inner Circle