Acquiring a dog is one of the best steps you would love to take, but you have to note that having a furry friend at home comes with a lot of responsibilities. Yea, you have to be ready to adjust to the excesses of dogs if you really love them to be happy around you.
Dogs do make great companions and they're the most loyal of animals, I mean, what could be more adorable than a frisky puppy. Yet, with all their alluring qualities, they can get you upset. You're human and she's an animal.
Imagine coming back from work and realizing your dog has stolen a chicken tender from your cooking pot, or she chewed up your new pair of kicks, what would you do? Your first instinct would be to yell at the top of your voice, right? Well, that’s understandable, but you might be doing your pup a lot of harm when you yell at her.
When your dog does something terrible, most times it’s simply because she is ignorant of it. But we often react harshly, especially when we're tired ourselves. Your tendency to raise your voice and your reaction to the situation may be understandable by other humans like you, but not dogs.
It may seem justifiable to yell at some point but the next time you so badly want to scream, don't! Yes, just don't. Or if that's so hard to do, pretend to yell with your six-inch voice because what may seem like a solution is not only a temporary one but one that might just be causing your dog a lot of stress.
The controversy of which training method is best for raising young dogs into well-behaved adults is one that has been on for a while. Some people believe that aversion training is the more effective way and they are almost completely opposed to those who employ the generous positive reinforcement or reward-based method.
The system of using aversive like “yelling” may have helped suppress unwanted behavior in dogs, but studies show that it leaves a long-lasting negative impact on your dog. More like a stress disorder.
The research that changed our minds
New research is now encouraging dog owners everywhere not to raise their voices at their little pups. This is because of the conclusion of a recent study that revealed how dogs don't just get momentarily afraid when you scream at them, you're are also creating a long-term trauma and fear of being yelled at which is not healthy.
This research was the first of its kind and was conducted by researchers from Universidade do Porto. It was headed by Ana Catarina Vieira de Carto who was a biologist in Portugal.
The purpose of the research was to determine the effect of aversion based training and reward-based training on the behavior and welfare of dogs.
Aversion training, also discipline-based training or positive punishment uses negative reinforcement to correct wrong behavior. Simply put, it uses unpleasant situations to remind the dog that he shouldn't continue in a certain way.
An aversive is a tool used to accomplish this effect. Many times, it is a yell or a loud harsh scolding that sends your dog running off or cowering. Other times it's choke collars, hitting, shock collars, dominance downs, and other physically or emotionally unpleasant situations.
Don't mistake positive punishment for positive reinforcement. They are practically word and opposite. Aversion techniques work by 'adding' a positive punishment to reduce unwanted behavior. It also uses negative reinforcement where benefits are withheld to teach the dog some manners.
These are all different from positive reinforcement which simply uses reward-based training to appreciate good behavior.
The problem with aversion based training
Although aversive has been by many people to raise dogs, it may not be the best way or the most effective. It was only recently that studies confirmed that using aversives like yelling at dogs should be discouraged because they can have a negative effect on the mental state of your dog for a long time.
If you have trained a number of different dogs, you'd know that even among identical breeds, dogs have unique qualities. You may find shy and timid dogs among large and small breeds alike. Raising your voice at them one time may put them in a fearful state for a while. They may end up losing their trust in you, which leads to even more behavioral problems.
Another downside of aversion training is the propensity it has to build aggression in dogs. While subjecting your dog to punishment, she may snap back and respond with her teeth. This could easily become a habit that will be difficult to suppress with more punishment.
Results of the experiment
The research which was to access the long term effects of yelling on dogs included 92 dogs selected from two different training school systems. 50 of the selected dogs were trained using the aversion method while the other 42 from schools that used the reward-based training method.
The first set of experiments was carried out to determine the short term effects of aversion training and its associated stress. Dogs were studied in different sessions and under different conditions to find out their stress levels. Their behavior during training was also monitored to identify signs of stress and poor mental state like paw raising, yelping, yawning and lip licking.
The dogs also had fluid samples like saliva taking from them during the period of the experiment to assess their stress levels biochemically and monitor their overall welfare.
The result of the research was very much expected. Dogs that had aversion training had poorer welfare. And they consistently showed high stress as they displayed more stress-related postures and behavior. Evaluation of their saliva in the lab showed that they also have higher levels of the stress hormone (cortisol) in their circulation.
The long term effects of yelling and stress were also studied. The results were still very consistent with the first. Dogs that were trained by aversion showed higher stress and had more pessimistic views about tasks. They were slower at completing tasks when compared to the dogs from the reward-based schools.
As a matter of face, the reward-based training raised dogs that were naturally more optimistic. They were more responsive to tasks and anticipated a reward at the end of an exercise hence were more willing to work for it.
It’s clear from the research above that the reward-based approach causes none or minimal long and short-term negative effects on dogs as opposed to the results of yelling and punishment.
The result shows that no one is allowed to shout at their dog again. Dogs are awesome friends to have around and they are too precious to be treated harshly. We ought to love and protect them at all costs.
More so, dogs can learn good behavior through positive reinforcement. They end up being happier and having a better state of mind. But then, raising dogs requires a lot of patience on your part so try not to traumatize your dog with your raised voice when it behaves badly.