Many people feel very strongly that dogs, especially big bouncy Labradors, do need to be disciplined if they are to be good canine citizens and fit in with life in our human world.
Pet parents want to know how to discipline their dogs for fighting, stealing, and other canine misdemeanors! I’ll give you some links to help with specific problems first, then we’ll look at the general principles that will help you discipline your dog without causing harm or pain.
Get Help With Dog Discipline
We have a range of articles to help you with a dog that’s acting up. I’ll also link you to a support group below
- Fighting, aggression and reacting badly to other dogs
- Stealing your stuff! (link to The Happy Puppy Site)
- Eating trash
- Jumping up
- Running away
- General naughtiness
If you want help with a specific problem then we’d love to see you in our Facebook dog network and support group. It’s called Dogsnet Training And Support.
I think we can all agree that badly behaved pets are a great source of embarrassment and annoyance. But what does discipline actually mean? Do you need to hit your dog to teach them right from wrong? Does discipline need to involve the use of punishment at all?
Discipline And Punishment
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 feel it is wrong and simply are not prepared to punish their pets. The chances are you are one of them. So where does that leave you when you need to teach your dog right from wrong?
Learning Without Fear
It’s important to be clear on what your objectives are when trying to change your dog’s behavior.
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.
The great news is that this important aim can be achieved very well by modern training methods. Your dog can learn to be a good canine citizen and without the use of punishment or fear.
A New Way To Train
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, including service and military dog trainers where obedience is very important indeed.
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, learning through rewards and smart management techniques has now been proven to be more effective than using punishment to discipline your Labrador.
Some dog trainers are not up to date with modern training methods, and may even try to undermine your efforts to avoid harming your dog. So 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.
That way you’ll be able to choose whether to ignore them, or explain why you have chosen a better path!
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
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Administering punishment 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.
Training with rewards
Training with rewards is a powerful and effective method of changing your dog’s behavior. 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 behavior permanently. This will take a little time, but it is well worth the effort.
You can find out more about the different training methods and techniques available to you on the following section of the website : Labrador training methods and techniques
How about you?
Share your reasons for avoiding punishment in dog training in the comment box below!
More help and information
If you enjoy the Labrador Website, we think you’ll love the Labrador Handbook
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