Can I spank my dog?

Do You Spank Your Dog?

During a lesson last week I was asked by a client, “When is it okay to spank your dog?”

I was really stopped short by this question, but admittedly not too surprised as there are still those that resort to getting really physical when it comes to correcting their dogs. Of course, my answer was, “You don’t.  It’s not okay to spank your dog. Instead decide what you would prefer your dog to do and focus on training that behavior.” Occasionally I see this type of punishment with dog behavior problems like house training, biting in puppies and house soiling in older dogs. Often times a rolled up newspaper is used.

Can I spank my dog?

Here are problems you can create when you spank your dog 

  • If you catch your puppy or older dog peeing in the house and use a rolled up newspaper to correct him, he just learns that peeing in your presence is not safe. Next time he will go when you are not around. 
  • If you spank your dog or puppy after the fact of wrong behavior, he will simply learn to avoid you in that context. 
  • Example: You come home from work and see a mess on the floor. You then find your puppy or dog and whack him with a newspaper and rub his nose it his mess. 
  • Since he wasn’t caught in the act, he now has learned that greetings are no longer safe when you come home because bad things happen. 
  • In the case of puppy biting, spanking, hitting or smacking your puppy is a huge breach of trust that often creates fear in your puppy which can lead to aggression. 
  • If you spank your dog or puppy for his seemingly aggressive behavior on leash around other dogs, he will begin to associate that punishment with the other dog. The result? He will then not want other dogs to approach because of the impending punishment.

Dog Training is Very Simple

Decide what you want your dog to do and focus all your energy and efforts in training the preferred behavior.

What happens is this – and let me know below if you agree – you loose your patience and want immediate results and often think punishment is the answer. It’s like a knee-jerk reaction.

Positive training takes time but creates a fair and balanced relationship built on these two things:

1. Trust: No harm will come to your dog from you
2. Understanding: That all good things come from you and must be earned

The bottom line: Don’t spank, whack or smack or your dog to stop the behavior you don’t want from your dog. Take your time and train your dog to give you the behavior you do want in each and every situation. You’ll have a much more harmonious outcome.

Buck Brannaman, a world famous horse trainer once said of owners and their horses, “Instead of spending time focusing on the end result, discover the benefit of being in the process – learning is in the doing – not necessarily in the outcome.”

You have the rest of your dog’s life to train. So loosen up, relax and consistently train your dog every day. You’ll soon be enjoying that win-win relationship you’ve always wanted with your dog.

Together We Can Raise A Happy and Obedient Dog


Jim Burwell, is Houston’s most respected dog trainer for 30 years, serving over 11,000 clients. Jim takes the science of dog training and shows you how to make it work with your family and dog. He gives you the ability to get the same great behavior from your dog
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17 replies
  1. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Your dog sounds bored. They are social creatures and if you have her stuck out in the backyard(even though there is another dog there) then you get a dog who will find something to tire her out mentally and physically. Spanking gets you nothing good!. The digging tires her out physically BUT you are NOT using her brain for anything. A BC is a Very smart dog. Find a better way to help your dog get her needs met. Our black lab is a much better behaved dog when we exercise his mind with games like “find it” instead of just having him run and fetch a fecthing dummy. NO spanking

  2. Matt
    Matt says:

    My little border collie loves to dig. I have tried everything, putting her poo in the hole but she eats it, making loud noises when she is caught, putting bad tasting liquids over the dug up holes, I even went a bought a big sand pit and buried treats/ toys in there for her to dig up. She sometimes goes in there and I praise her for doing so but she still like to go back to her holes and dig them up. And I don’t understand how she could be ‘bored’ because she runs around the backyard for hours with our 2 year old husky. The last few times I’ve resorted to smacking which seems to work at the time but then she gets scared and I hate that. I hate smacking her because I know it’s a natural behaviour for her breed but all the others don’t seem to work.. Can anyone suggest anything else? Is this just a puppy phase that she will grow out of? Any suggestions will be appreciated. Thanks!

  3. client care
    client care says:

    Heather: thanks for commenting. I don’t see a response to our specific question. Based on what you wrote it appears you dont’ have a good method for training your dogs. Hopefull you can find
    a positive reinforcement trainer with at least 8 years of doing this for a living that would help you.

  4. Heather
    Heather says:

    I have tried every type of training and behavioral training with my two dogs. They are both mutts. The older one behaves like a champion, but my other dog doesn’t respond to any type of training. First dog took him a month to behave. I’ve used 6 different types of training methods on my second dog over the past 2 years and still the only thing he’s caught on to is sit…even professional trainers haven’t been able to “fix” him and he’s the one that neutered. No one seems to be able to come up with a solution.

  5. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Spanking your dog will only make your dog scared of you, or defensive of you and use aggression to protect himself. Hire a positive reinforcement trainer.

  6. Gary
    Gary says:

    Thanks Jim, I don’t like the idea of spanking my dog, however I have rescue (street dog) who steals food at every opportunity. The problem I see is it is a self rewarding behaviour – he is uncontrollably excited for any prospect of food, so if I turn my back for a second he will steal off the bench or plate. I know the obvious answer is don’t give him the opportunity but if I leave a crumb on the bench he is up licking the bench clean. He doesn’t seem to respond to being told off.

  7. Jim
    Jim says:

    Stacy you are stopping the behavior in the moment but you are not fixing anything. No matter what method you wish to use if you only stop the behavior in the moment instead of
    fixing it, the end result is the same – you still have the behavior

  8. Stacy
    Stacy says:

    Well, we don’t spank our dogs. We tap them on the behind with a newspaper. It works.
    Mainly, I hit the newspaper across my hand or leg. It makes a loud noise and gets them to stop. But, if it doesn’t, I will tap their rear.
    And, our dogs are affectionate and don’t shy away from being hugged, kissed or petted.

  9. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Gary: First, no punishment of the dog. Your dog appears to have a condition known as Pica. This means eating things that have no nutritional value. People also suffer from this.

    First thing I would advise is to take your dog to your vet and have him checked for iron deficiency or parasites. Both of those things MAY create PIca.

    Secondly and easiest – pick up the underwear – it’s a lot easier to do that than trying to treat for leaving them alone. You should always be setting your dog up to succeed, not
    setting him up to have failure.

  10. gary
    gary says:

    We have a golden doodle who is 1 year old. He is a great dog but despite our best efforts insists on eating and swallowing our daughters underwear. We have tried rewarding him to leave them but it doesn’t work. He has now vomited up on three occasions full pairs of pants. We are really concerned, what can we do with him. My husband thinks a sharp tap if he is caught in the act, because he would rather that he fears chewing the pants than ends up with a twisted gut and a life saving operation. Any help appreciated.

  11. Jenny Smith
    Jenny Smith says:

    I have older rescue dogs. Obedience trained by me. The only time I have ever hit a dog and that was immediate was when a dog snapped at me and once when a dog unprovoked bit me. I lightly slapped the side of their face and I do me lightly with a loud NO! I only ever had to do it once to each dog, this was at separate times. I have found a loud nasty noise if I catch a dog in the act, even when I caught two of them decimating 24 toilet rolls!!! My fault! I did not put them up!

  12. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Actually I do Jackie. Here’s what I say: Decide what you want your dog to do and focus all your energy and efforts in training the preferred behavior.

  13. Jackie
    Jackie says:

    Yes, I agree that spanking is not an option but you don’t state is that dogs need to see your hand as comforting, not a threat. Spanking only confuses them. But you don’t give any suggestions as to what to do. About nine months ago, my dog starting barking when the phone rang or when I turned on my computer printer. It drives me nuts. What should I do?

  14. Bev Dahms
    Bev Dahms says:

    I totally agree with not spanking. We have a bichion which was very hard to train, I contributed that to getting him at 5 months from a pet store. He is now almost 5 and very much a delight. He has never been hit

  15. Lin Rahe
    Lin Rahe says:

    Thank you for your leadership ,positive attitude & good judgment in teaching us how to be better parents. I have learned so much from your short missives & implement your suggestions.

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