Heart-Wrenching Study Shows The Long-Term Effect Yelling Can Have On Your Dog
I once knew a puppy named Pepper. An adorable white and black pit bull, he would roam free in the neighborhood, sweetly greeting us as we pulled weeds and retrieved the mail. At 8 months old, he was a spirited and playful creature. Then, his spontaneous visits came to a screeching halt. Pepper was nowhere to be found, and the quietude he left behind spawned an eerie emptiness in the neighborhood. I asked my neighbors, Pepper’s parents, why he hadn’t been around. Exasperated, they let me know they had brought him to the SPCA, where he been euthanized because of his breed. Their reasoning? Pepper had been “out of control” and yelling at their dog hadn’t helped, nor did any form of discipline they had tried.
There’s a tragic and preventable reason why Pepper, and three million like him, are surrendered to shelters every year: they misbehave. (2)
But is it the dogs who are misbehaving, or humans that are failing to communicate well with their dogs? A new study indicates that the latter is more accurate and yelling at dogs, or disciplining them in any way, causes much more harm than good. There is a better way to raise polite, obedient dogs, according to this research.
A team of researchers at bioRxiv studied 92 dogs as they underwent formal obedience training. Fifty of the canines were trained at schools using aggressive tactics, including yelling at dogs and physically controlling them. The remaining pups were trained at schools where instructors refrained from aggression and used only a reward system instead. (1)
The biologists collected samples of the dogs’ saliva before and after training sessions. Dogs who had been yelled at and yanked on demonstrated significantly higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, while those who were trained using only positive reinforcement had completely healthy levels of stress hormones. Additionally, they conducted behavioral tests to analyze if one group behaved better than another. Interestingly, the dogs trained with aggression demonstrated much less effective progress than their calmly-trained counterparts. (1)
After numerous tests, their results present clear findings: Dogs who are trained with treats and encouragement behave better. On the contrary, dogs who are yelled at are more distressed and less successful. What’s more, pups who are trained with rewards demonstrate greater long-term happiness and relaxation. (1)
Dog Training Suggestions
If you are thinking of adding a dog to your family or you need to re-train your older pup, here are a few tips to consider (3):
- Buy your pooch a harness (not a choke collar), a 6-foot leash, chewy snacks, and lots of dog treats. If you also need to potty train your dog, purchase a crate for when no one is home.
- Choose one command at a time to work intensively. Typically, dogs will first need to learn “sit,” “come,” and “drop” because these allow you to resume control over your four-legged quickly and keep him safe. Practice the command copiously every day, committing to designated “training time” as well. Every single time your dog obeys the command, reward her with snacks.
- Allow your puppy to enjoy an age-appropriate chewy snack, like rawhide or a chew bone every day. This will help calm her and keep her entertained. This is especially helpful for dogs who are teething or chew on furniture.
- Enroll your dog in reward-based obedience classes. Call various training programs and ask if they use chokers and pulling, or only positive reinforcement. Always go with a rewards-based program.
Pepper Could Have Been Saved
Although it’s been two decades since Pepper was given to the SPCA for being “bad,” I still think about him. If his parents had committed to training him every day, using rewards instead of yelling, Pepper’s life may have been saved.
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