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  • Sally Gutteridge

Punishment is issued through Ignorance!




“To use punishment betrays a lack of education and empathy. It certainly works when delivered correctly but even then, it’s confusing and cruel.


In the words of one particular renowned dog behaviourist:



“To use shock as an effective dog training method you will need:


A thorough understanding of canine behaviour.

A thorough understanding of learning theory.

Impeccable timing.


And if you have those three things, you don’t need a shock collar.”


- Dr Ian Dunbar


Whilst Dr Dunbar is talking specifically of electric shock as punishment, the statement above applies to all types of punishment – because punishment itself is literally based on some kind of shock, pain, or fear. There are many problems with using punishment. The first is that it relies on the dog practicing the act that we are trying to eradicate. As we already know, anything that is repeated creates a specific neural pathway. Practice makes habits.


Another issue with punishment is that it can cause suppression through fear.


For example, if I were to punish a dog every time she pulled on a lead, by checking her, I wouldn’t be showing her what I would like her to do instead, I would just be hurting and scaring her. Eventually the dog may stop pulling but more because she is depressed than because she has learned that’s what I would prefer she does.


Suppression is not only unfair, but it can be dangerous. For example, if you were in a friendship with someone and they told you to be quiet every time you attempted to speak about your needs, you may stop trying. It doesn’t mean that your needs are no longer present. In fact, because they have pushed them deep inside you, they might be all you think about. When our needs are not met, even our biology becomes obsessed with them, we can think of nothing else. Eventually we may get physically ill based on all the inner turmoil, or we might reach the end of our tether and bop that particular friend on the nose.


We have the power to walk away from people who make us suppress our feelings, yet dogs can’t walk away. They will either get ill and depressed, highly anxious, or do their only other choice – start to threaten us that enough is enough. Depending on the dog’s personality and experience of life, threatening might or might not happen. Our rescue dog Holly would probably never have bitten when she arrived with us, yet as she’s grown into her choices, she’s happier to poke us with her nose as a protest, which is brilliant, because she’s starting to be empowered and realises she has at least some say in what happens to her.


Just as punishment has been identified as being bad for children, and most people will agree that sparing the rod/spoiling the child is a description of old-fashioned brutality, hopefully we will someday soon see the same enlightenment in the treatment of dogs.”



Excerpt From: Sally Gutteridge. “Fearful Dog Rehabilitation.” iBooks.


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©2020 by Sally Gutteridge.