We all want a well behaved Labrador, and sensible dog discipline seems like a logical step in achieving that aim
For many of us discipline is or was, synonymous with punishment or correction. And you can’t have failed to notice that punishing dogs is falling out of favour.
Punishment of dogs is a subject that arouses very strong feelings, and many people are simply not prepared to punish their pets. So where does that leave us when we need to teach our Labs right from wrong?
The need for dog discipline
Badly behaved pets are a great source of embarrassment and annoyance.
And many people feel very strongly that dogs, especially big bouncy Labradors, do need to be disciplined if they are to fit in with society.
But what does discipline actually mean?
And does it need to involve the use of punishment at all?
The meaning of discipline in dog training
The word discipline comes from disciple or scholar and its original meaning was all about learning and acquiring knowledge.
When we talk about discipline for our dogs, what we really want is for the dog to learn to follow a code of conduct and to obey the commands given to him by humans.
Fortunately that can be achieved very well by modern training methods and without the use of punishment
Dog training without punishment
The world of dog training has changed immeasurably over the last two decades.
Modern dog training is focused on teaching dogs what to do in any given situation, not on punishing their mistakes.
You can find a whole range of guides on this website for training your dog without any punishment at all. They all work, and they are all methods internationally recognised and used now, by successful obedience trainers worldwide
Guides like this one for example: Train your dog to come when you call (even when he doesn’t want to)
The good news is that not only is discipline without punishment possible, it has now been proven to be more effective than using punishment to discipline your Labrador.
To finish up, let’s take a look at four key arguments against the use of punishment whilst you are training your labrador or any other breed of dog.
4 Reasons to discipline your dog without punishment.
- Punishment reduces a dog’s desire to share your company
- Punishment is difficult to apply effectively in many different training situations
- Punishing dogs may impair their ability/willingness to make decisions
- Punishment may impair the ability of the handler to remain calm
Punishment reduces the dog’s desire to share your company
Let’s face it, if you are being mean to your labrador, it is inevitable that he will be less enthusiastic about sharing your space.
This is particularly important in recall training, where the objective is to get the dog right up against you.
I have found that the fastest and most effective recalls are obtained when a dog has been recall trained using rewards.
Punishment is difficult to apply effectively
There is no doubt that punishment applied accurately can be effective. But to be accurate and effective it must be both
- unpleasant to the dog
The mechanism of accurate punishment is not straightforward. Try chasing your dog round and round the kitchen after he has thieved your dinner, or catching him in the act of raiding the bin, and you will soon find that the word ‘immediately’ becomes a major problem.
There is no doubt that people today have neither the inclination nor the stomach for being horrible to dogs.
And many dogs are not easily upset.
Which means that to achieve a training effect through punishment, ‘horrible’ is what you will need to be.
Applying an effective punishment is therefore neither desirable nor obtainable in many training situations.
Punishment impairs a dog’s decision making process
Dogs that are never or rarely punished are able to make decisions quickly and confidently.
Regular punishment inhibits that ability. It introduces in the dog, a fear of making the wrong decision.
In this situation, the dog is likely to freeze and do nothing. This can slow up the training process.
And whilst some skills are unlikely to be affected by a tendency to freeze ( the sit/stay for example) it is possible that the effects of the punishment during the process of training this skill, will spill over into the dog’s relationship with his handler.
So, if you use punishment to keep a dog sitting at a distance for example, and then move on to some ‘recall’ work, you may notice that the dog’s willingness to approach you is (at least temporarily) impaired.
Punishing a dog can impair your ability to remain calm
Another negative effect of punishment is on the handler of the dog. Punishing a dog effectively often leaves the handler feeling stressed and irritable. No matter how outwardly calm they may seen.
This is not a good state to be in whilst training a dog.
Punishing a dog is bound to put you in a bad mood. It’s just no fun.
Fortunately there is another way.
Dog training with rewards
Training with rewards is a powerful and effective method of changing your dog’s behaviour. With certain provisos.
Just like punishment, reward based training needs to be accurate and effective.
You cannot just bribe and coax. You need to learn how to use rewards properly in order to get a ‘training effect’ and change your dog’s behaviour permanently. This will take a little time, but it is well worth the effort.
There are lots of different types of rewards, and different ways to use them. Check out How to Use and Choose Rewards to Train Your Dog or Puppy for more information.
How about you?
Share your reasons for avoiding punishment in dog training in the comment box below!
If you are interested in learning more about training without punishment Total Recall is one of the most popular dog training books in the UK
Total Recall is an Amazon best seller and has had many fantastic reviews.
Don’t forget, dog discipline needn’t be about punishment.
You don’t need to punish a dog to have a well disciplined pet.
Good luck with your training, there is help and support available in the forum and you can share your experiences in the comments box below!
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website