#30daysofcaninescience *Day 13*

Day 13 is about punishment which is a really sensitive subject. I realise that no matter how I write it, there are gonna be people that disagree. So I will start with saying that there is nothing saying that you need to do what other people are telling you, if it doesn’t feel right for you and your dog, don’t do it. 

I will approach this subject with the background of the day 13 ”Geek out”, but some things may be interpreted differently since it is me writing it and I have my own experiences to lean back on. So if you wanna know exactly how ”School Of Canine Science” are approaching the subject, I suggest that you sign up for one of their courses. I really enjoy them and learn a lot!

Most people that hear the word ”punishment” instantly thinks of adding something painful to stop a behaviour. Maybe pulling on the leash or twisting the dogs ear. 

But as we learnt yesterday, punishment is a change in the environment which leads to a decrease in the frequency of the behaviour. 

If we look at the example from the experiment I did with Rusa from ”Day 12″ we can see that petting on the head resulted in her only doing the chin target 2 times during the 30 seconds, instead of 6 – 8 in other scenarios. However, in the scientific sense of the term I can’t really say that the behaviour frequency decreased, because she still did the chin target more times in the second session that the first. So we will move on to another example. 

In today’s ”Skill up” we got to teach the dogs not to barge out the door. The technique we could choose to use was to close the door every time the dog tries to run out, just to open it straight after. This technique makes the dog less prone to go out the door. Afterwards we can reward the dog for making a good choice.

This is how I teach my dogs to not jump out of the car. It is something that is really important to me since it can be dangerous to always have to ask the dog to stay. What if one day they sneak out before your ”stay” command and gets hit by a car? The punishment in this case is much milder than the possible consequence. 

I would have loved to live with my dogs in total freedom, but unfortunately I’m stuck in a society that doesn’t really accept dogs being free. That means that I have to do what is needed for the dogs to behave according to the rules. I see punishment as the last way out, if nothing else is working. And it has to be something that the dog understands, that doesn’t ruin the relationship in any way. Therefore I won’t suggest using punishment if I haven’t met the dog and can see how it reacts in the given situation.

I’m also aware that they don’t learn from punishment, it is just something to interrupt a behaviour that is incompatible with the environment the dog is in. We have to teach the dog with positive reinforcement to make it understand how we want it to react instead. We can’t expect the dog to stop an instinctive or personal behaviour and just leave it confused and unsure about what to do. We can’t say ”What you’re doing now is really bad” and then not give it an alternative.  

Every dog is different with it’s own personality and it’s important to learn how to read your dog. We need find out what is causing the behaviour change. Certain dogs might lash out in the leash because they are insecure, then it’s important to make the dog more confident and punishment can really be counterproductive. 

So be careful with punishment and contact someone that knows how to understand dogs before using it. 

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