7 Tips on How to Appropriately Punish Your Pet

Canine-punishment

How many of you as pet owners have come home to your belongings destroyed or your furnishings soiled with urine or other excrement? I am sure there were feelings of frustration and anger. There was probably a strong urge to punish your pet to ensure that this never happens again. Many of you either did or wanted to pick up a rolled newspaper and take your pet to the “crime” scene to be disciplined. What followed probably would and did involve being physical with the pet by hitting them with that newspaper. So how should one punish a pet? When is the appropriate time to punish your pet? What are things to consider prior to punishing your pet? What are appropriate methods to punish your pet? Below are 7 tips to consider when it comes to punishing your pet appropriately.

1. Make sure behavior is not due to illness prior to punishment

As I have mentioned in previous articles, on the topics of separation anxiety and inappropriate urination, there are behaviors that can be related to medical issues. It is important that this is determined prior to implementing a punishment protocol. If your pet is an older animal that suddenly exhibits a behavior that is uncharacteristic, that may indicate a medical issue. Also if there is a behavior that worsens over time, that may also indicate a medical problem. But overall, the best person to help rule out if your pet’s condition is behavioral or medical is your veterinarian.

 

 

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2. Remember punish the behavior and not the pet

It is important that you are not punishing your pet for doing what is normal for its species. Both cats and dogs have natural behaviors. For example, cats like to scratch and dogs like to chew. Therefore it is important that they have a suitable environment to satisfy those behaviors. Dogs need appealing toys to chew and cats need appropriate areas to be allowed to scratch. By making sure these are readily available for your pets, it will be less likely that you would need to punish them for inappropriate behavior

3. Withholding attention can be a form of punishment

Let’s face it our pets love attention. This is evident by how excited they get when we come home from a long day and all they want to do is to be next to us. Puppies and kittens especially crave attention. On that note, attention can be an incentive for discouraging bad behavior. An example is if a puppy is constantly biting, this can be discouraged by ignoring it while it is biting, then rewarding it with attention when they stop. As an animal lover I know it’s difficult to ignore your pet, especially if you have a cute puppy or kitten with innocent eyes. Just remember, behind those innocent eyes may be a mind full of mischief. It is better to discourage bad behavior early before it becomes a big problem later.

 


 

4.Use Direct interactive punishment

Direct interactive punishment involves disrupting your pet’s bad behavior while they are currently in the act. This can involve using a loud noise such as clapping hands, using a noise device such as pennies inside of a can, or a loud alarm. It is important that the pet is verbally reprimanded right when the behavior is occurring . Also, the pet’s behavior needs to be redirected to something more appropriate.

 5. Use remote techniques for punishment

These techniques involve you not being present or the pet not being aware of your presence during the punishment. This may require you to be technologically savvy. Devices that may be needed include a video monitor, intercom, or a motion detector. You may also need to practice your “stealth” skills because sometimes you will be required to remain concealed while administering the punishment. As your pet enters the problem area to perform the forbidden behavior, you can use a long range water gun, a noise device, or a remote control device to scare it away. The goal is that your pet cannot determine that the punishment is being administered by you. This allows it to quickly learn avoidance of the area whether you are present or not.

6. Use booby traps in the environment

Don’t worry, this is not as scary as it sounds. You don’t have to install trap doors, nets, or bear claws. These are not the type of booby traps I am talking about. These traps are sometimes necessary when it is impractical for you to monitor your pet for undesirable behaviors. They are designed to teach your pet to avoid the area and the behavior. In order for these devices to be effective, they need to be unpleasant enough to deter, remain active in case your pet returns to the area, and they should be able to reset themselves. Some examples include setting up balloons to pop, having a pyramid of cans that topple, motion detectors that trigger alarms, mats that administer a mild shock when stepped on, and indoor electronic fencing. For chewing offenses, taste deterrents may be helpful. There are a few products that can be purchased to help with that including Bitter Apple, or Bitter Lime. You can also make your own concoction by mixing cayenne pepper with water.

7. Do not punish after the behavior has already occurred

While it’s tempting to punish your pet when you find destruction or house soiling, if you did not catch your pet in the act you shouldn’t do it. If you think about it, if you bring your pet over to the mess to punish him/her, all you are doing is punishing it for being present at the “crime” scene. Remember your goal is to punish the actual behavior. To the cat or dog the reason for punishment may be unclear and may create fear or anxiety. Later on, this could lead to your pet becoming aggressive or fearful toward you.

 

In conclusion, there are ways to punish your pet without being physical with them. Utilizing the above tips should help improve your relationship with your pet and minimize the frustration that can come with inappropriate behaviors.


7 thoughts on “7 Tips on How to Appropriately Punish Your Pet

  1. Wow, I’m surprised to still see so much emphasis on punishment, especially since most unwanted behavior is easily addressed without it once you know how. A combination of prevention, management, positive reinforcement for desired behavior, and the withholding of any reinforcement for undesired behavior is a powerful combination. If you would like to learn how to get your dog to behave without having to use any punishments that involve pain or fear, you can contact a trainer affiliated with The Pet Professional Guild.

  2. You left out the most important punishment of all: Having the owner smack him/herself on the forehead while repeating, “I forgot to watch my dog! I forgot to watch my dog!”

    I strongly suggest rewriting this article with suggestions for PREVENTING any behavior that you might think deserves “punishment.” If you feel the need to punish your dog, clearly you’re not putting enough thought into managing his/her environment so as to PREVENT the behavior.

  3. I agree with the Anne Springer and Eileen Kerrigan. The emphasis should be on management and setting your pet up for success. Using fear or intimidation is not the way to teach appropriate behavior. People should focus on the behaviors they want from their pets and positively reinforce them. Aversive punishment can cause stress, anxiety or fear. Would you recommend “booby traps” for toddlers or squirting them with water? I’m sure you are qualified to give medical advice but did you learn about learning theory in vet school?

    • The purpose of this article was not to emphasize punishment but to provide alternatives to those pet owners who decide the best way to punish their pet is to be physical with them. I do agree that people need to focus on training their pets so they are less likely to have inappropriate behavior. But many pet owners are reactive vs proactive when it comes to training their pets. In an ideal world pet owners would never have the “need” to punish their pet’s behavior. Unfortunately we live in a world where people get pets who obviously have no time to train them or even watch them. As far as the techniques I listed I would more accurately describe them as deterrents vs punishments which would need to be combined with positive reinforcement in order to ultimately achieve the desired behavior. Based on the behavior there are some instances where deterrents may be a necessary component in the training. A cat scratching furniture may need a squirt with water to deter them especially if the alternative is it being declawed or being relinquished to a shelter. In regards to some of the techniques causing anxiety or fear in dogs I would have to respectably disagree if done correctly. The reason being is the pet is in control and makes the decision whether to enter a forbidden area or not. Another point to make is that this is one of many articles I plan to write in regards to training. In the future and in past articles I have or plan to address suggestions for preventing inappropriate behavior. Do I believe a pet can be trained without require punishment? Yes I do. I believe that is the ideal. But that does not work for every pet owner. As far as comparing training a toddler to training a pet I believe that is like comparing apples to oranges. Different species have different behaviors so I wouldn’t even consider training my 4 year old like I would train my dog.

  4. I recently had a child ask me when they could punish the dog. Like in this article, the dog was unsupervised, had not been given suitable things to do, and had not been given any boundaries to be successful. I sat down with the 8 year old and asked what she thought we should do if she colored outside the lines, did not shovel the snow or did not do the grocery shopping for the family. I did not expect her to understand, but she knew my expectations were not fair. Her mother,sitting beside her, had an epiphany. I discovered much punishment going on without a plan for prevention or realistic expectations of what a 4 month old puppy could learn. Please take a look at your article and think of the ways to set the dog up for success and not for punishment.

    • Alice your point just elaborates what I discuss in tip # 2 of this article. People need to have an understanding of a pet’s environmental needs so they don’t have unrealistic expectations. If people would consider the first two tips I mentioned there probably would never be any need to punish a pet. The intended audience for this article is pet owners who immediately pursue physical punishment before considering the tips I have mentioned. This is not meant to be a “how to treat this specific type of behavior” type of article. I have advocated training in my previous articles on basic puppy training and guidelines for acquiring a new puppy. If I were to add anything additional to this article, it would be that a desired behavior through positive reinforcement should be the goal not just punishment.

  5. SINCE I KEEP GETTING COMMENTS ON HOW THERE ARE BETTER WAYS TO TRAIN YOUR PET BESIDE USING PUNISHMENT, I WANT TO MAKE THIS CLARIFICATION THAT THIS ARTICLE’S INTENT WAS NOT TO INDICATE PUNISHMENT AS A PRIMARY SOURCE OF TRAINING. IN FACT NO WHERE IN THIS ARTICLE DO I STATE THAT THAT YOU SHOULD TRAIN YOUR DOG TO DO OR NOT TO DO A PARTICULAR TYPE OF BEHAVIOR WITH JUST A PUNISHMENT. I AM AWARE OF TWO MAJOR TRAINS OF THOUGHT WHEN IT COMES TO TRAINING. SOME ARE ADVOCATES ARE TRAINING WITHOUT ANY FORM OF DISCIPLINE (FORCE FREE TRAINING), WHILE OTHERS INCORPORATE SOME DISCIPLINE WITH THEIR TRAINING TECHNIQUES. THIS ARTICLE WAS GEARED FOR THOSE WHO ELECT TO USE DISCIPLINE THAT THEY USE IT APPROPRIATELY. IT IS COMMONPLACE TO HEAR OF MANY OWNERS YOU OFTEN DISCIPLINE THEIR PETS AFTER THE FACT OR CHOOSE TO PHYSICALLY HIT THEIR PETS. ALSO THERE ARE OWNERS WHO DON’T EVEN CONSIDER THE FIRST TWO TIPS I MENTIONED IN THE ARTICLE BEFORE THEY DECIDE TO DISCIPLINE. IF SOMEONE CHOOSES TO USE DISCIPLINE IN TRAINING THEIR PET, IT SHOULD ONLY BE TEMPORARY FOLLOWED BY REDIRECTION. ALSO THEY SHOULD NEVER DEPEND ON IT SOLELY TO CORRECT AN INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR.

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