An average Indian family values ‘tough love’. We don’t shower our kids with rewards and we always push them to reach greater heights, and naturally, we do the same with our dogs.
However, there are many negative effects of yelling at your dog. In fact, studies show that negative reinforcement or positive punishment has a lot of long term psychological effects on a dog.
Negative Effects Of Yelling At Your Dog – The Research
A research was conducted in October 2019 to study the negative effects of yelling at your dog. This research involved 92 pet dogs.
42 of the dogs were trained with positive reinforcement. This means that they were encouraged to learn new things. Their handlers rewarded them for good behaviour and made training sessions interesting and beneficial for them.
The second group of dogs were trained via positive punishment strategies. Their handlers used shock collars, choke chains etc to punish them if they did something wrong. Instead of encouraging them and stimulating their minds, handlers would physically change their posture, or yell at them to teach them how to sit, stand etc.
After a span of a few months, the researchers checked their cortisol levels as well as their ability to comprehend commands.
They were asked to do a small exercise. In this activity, there were a few bowls but only one bowl had a sausage. They rubbed all the bowls with sausages so they all had the same scent. The dog was then asked to find the bowl with the sausage.
Studies showed that those that belonged to the first group (the positive reinforcement group) were much quicker at finding the sausage they also had lesser amounts of cortisol. Conversely, dogs in the second group had higher levels of cortisol and they took longer to find the bowl of sausages.
Scientists suggest that this may have happened because, the dogs trained with positive reinforcement were optimistic and eager to find the sausage and the dogs trained with negative reinforcement were pessimistic and were perhaps stressed when asked to perform the activity.
What Will Yelling Do To My Dog?
Yelling sometimes happens naturally. We don’t do it on purpose but yelling at them too many times can cause an adverse impact, like:
1. Wetting The Floor
Depending on the situation, some dogs can get back to wetting the floor or struggle to understand house training if they are trained with a lot of screaming and yelling. You may notice that your puppies are peeing on the doormat again or avoiding you after peeing in the house. This usually indicates that your puppy is very stressed.
2. Avoidant Personality
A stressed dog is the opposite of a happy dog. While a happy dog will run to you when you come back home, a stressed dog may not. Since most dogs are forgiving, it’s hard to usually tell if your dog is stressed but you may notice them avoiding you when you are angry.
3. Physical Changes
Dogs that grow in an environment where they are constantly yelling and screaming have changes in their posture. They may hold themselves a little hunched than other dogs, other dogs have a lot of hair fall.
Positive Reinforcement Is Not Spoiling Your Dog
We have seen this first hand with other pet parents whenever we tried training our dog in the lawn with treats. People say ‘you are spoiling your dog by training with treats’.
The above study has proved them wrong. It turns out that creating a favourable environment and using treats as an encouragement, you can teach them more effectively and also much faster.
When it comes to treats – if you use good high-quality training treats you won’t make your dog obese or overweight. It doesn’t take a lot to motivate your dog, even a small amount of treats is enough to motivate them.
Positive Reinforcement Vs Negative Reinforcement
The main reason why positive reinforcement works over negative reinforcement is that while positive reinforcement teaches dogs what they should do, negative reinforcement teaches them what they shouldn’t do.
Dogs don’t purposely do things to make us angry, such a vindictive nature is only present in humans. Dogs usually do things against your will when they are frustrated or when they want to get comfortable. For example, if they need to pee and they aren’t taken outside they may wet the floor to relieve themselves. They never intend to upset you.
Of maybe, you try to put a collar on them and they get away from you, they aren’t doing it to anger you. They simply don’t know what the collar is so they get away with it to protect themselves. By yelling at them and forcing the collar on them we actually make the situation worse. The next time we take out the collar, they are scared.
If you are persistent in teaching them what you want them to do and how you want them to behave they are far more likely to listen.
Sometimes, you are not the person causing them stress, it can be a neighbour or a family member constantly yelling at your dog. This is the right time to intervene and teach them how to interact with your dog. If you are the root cause of their anxiety, you must understand their language and remove yourself from the situation when you feel frustrated.
Dogs Are Not The Same As Wolves
Contradictory to prior believes dogs and wolves are not the same. They have similar dietary systems but their mental capacity is very different.
Many feel that they need to be the ‘dominant’ person in the pack because the dog is like a wolf. Recent studies show that dogs are far more docile than wolves and they share a co-dependant relationship with us.
Dogs are naturally dependent on us and wolves are not. This is why positive reinforcement training usually works very well with wolves.
There are damaging negative effects of yelling at your dog. If you are struggling to teach them something it is probably because of the increased tensions during training sessions. A better strategy to approach training would be to leave the room for two seconds if you feel frustrated.
End the session if you can’t teach. Instead, come back to them when you are in a better mood. Dogs are excellent at sensing tension and optimism. So, if you feel positive, they will also feel positive.
We hope this article helped you understand why yelling at your dog does them no good. Please share this with someone you feel needs to read this. What are some positive training strategies that worked with your dog? Let us know in the comments section below.