I Spanked My Dog, Now He Hates Me

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Sam Basso
PHOENIX , AZ AREA: (602) 708-4531
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The Effects: You’ve spanked your dog, now your dog hates you. What should you do? Corporal punishment, physical correction, is always a risky form of behavior modification because it can backfire. You can lose a dog’s friendship forever. You can become the dog’s permanent enemy. Just as I have seen dogs that took up a grudge against another dog in the home after a fight, where one dog then needs to find a new home to prevent the dogs from killing one or another, I’ve seen dogs develop a grudge against a person, and the only solution is to find the dog another home. The application of corporal punishment can cause a dog to develop a permanent dislike of the person who implemented the punishment.

The Cause: People will use abusive methods on their dogs because they have become angry and frustrated with their dogs. So, their dogs are yelled at, threatened, spanked, hit, blasted with air horns, had coin filled cans tossed at them, grabbed, chased, cornered, bullied, shot them with bb guns, poked, banished, pinned to the ground, or worse. Yet, we all know if the dog had been in professional training classes, using proper methods and diligent practice, these dogs wouldn’t have been annoying in the first place. Harsh punishment is always a reaction to whatever the dog is or isn’t doing, not a purposeful strategy for dealing with fixing a problem.

Personal Observation: Let’s take the emotional part out of this for a minute, and just look at the effects of using corporal punishment as a dog training method. I have rarely seen an instance of a dog owner who has properly and successfully applied physical corporal punishment, and as a result, whatever behavior the owners didn’t like kept repeating regardless of the punishment applied. I have seen many instances of dogs that have become aggressive because of the inappropriate use of corporal punishment, and I’ve seen a handful of dogs that developed a grudge that then couldn’t be changed.

The Behavioral Reason: Grudges don’t always have to come as a result of punishment, either. I have seen dogs that were mishandled as puppies by a certain individual, and the dog then perceived that person as an enemy and never did trust them again. Few people recognize that many of the higher social animals have survival mechanisms built into them to help them identify enemies. Some birds, such as crows, aren’t born with knowledge of which animals are dangerous and which aren’t. They learn which animals are dangerous from their parents. Crow parents teach their young which animals are dangerous. The same happens with dogs. Dogs aren’t born knowing which animals are dangerous to them and which ones to trust. When they are very young, they learn these things. That is why we socialize our puppies with a wide variety of people and animals, to prevent them from identifying some as enemies. In the wild, it is essential for the young to learn which animals will kill them, otherwise, they will walk right up to them and be eaten. We have all probably heard of animals on remote islands that have no fear of humans or predators. They haven’t encountered them, so they can easily be caught or killed. They have to learn they are dangerous. This is why park service rangers have been deploying noisemakers (air horns, firecrackers, etc.), projectile devices (bean bag guns), and trained dogs, such as the Karelian Bear Dog, to scare off bears that get too close to town. They want the bears to identify humans and dogs as enemies, so the bears decide to keep away from human settlements… and they will teach that to their cubs. Similarly, I know of a puppy that was unintentionally scared by one of my student’s relatives. He forced himself on the puppy, and when the puppy backed away, he then chased after the puppy and further forced himself of the puppy. His intentions were initially friendly, but then he got frustrated, and made the puppy do something that the puppy didn’t like. Now, three years later, the puppy likes everyone… except him. That one incident that day created a lifelong grudge.

The Answer: So, what do you do if you’ve applied corporal punishment to your dog, and now your dog hates you? First, you need to stop the punishments. Then, you must hire a professional dog behaviorist and see if the situation can be turned around. Most of the time, if it hasn’t gone on too long or too frequently, it can be turned around. On the other hand, it is possible to permanently lose a dog’s trust, and you may have blown it. For some dogs, you have created a time bomb. There’s no way to tell without professional help. You were abusive in your manner or methods, or both. And your foolishness led to this. Now, it is up to you to fix what you have broken.

Sam Basso is a professional dog trainer and behaviorist, in the Phoenix/ Scottsdale metropolitan area. He’s known for being fun, kind, intelligent, and humane. Sam Basso has a unique personal touch. He has appeared on his own TV show, been a guest radio expert, gives seminars, publishes a dog related blog, does rescue volunteering, and is active in promoting animal welfare and fair dog laws.