When Punishing Your Dog Backfires

Small example. Your dog has been punished for every little thing while you are home. Punishment is a learning theory term which means applying a consequence that reduces the frequency of a behavior. It doesn’t necessarily imply that you’ve done something horrible to your dog… but we can discuss that further at another time.

You leave the home…

You are no longer there to suppress your dogs undesired behaviors, releasing excitement and a desire to explore your home or yard with the goal of finding something desirable. Your dog is now actively self-learning and obtaining positive reinforcement for tearing up your things, your home and yard.

Then, your dog anticipates your return: you’ll start punishing again. This worry builds in intensity as the time comes closer to your typical time of return. Your dog has learned to dread your return because punishment is coming. That frustrated fearfulness turns into massive destructiveness, self-harm, or attempts to escape. Drooling is a common sign.

Lastly, the time of your return approaches. Dogs are socially dependent and being alone and worried can stimulate related behaviors and emotions to indicate their need for care. Neighbors might report your dog has been nonstop barking or howling. You’ll see or hear about the typical signs such as cowering or frantic behavior when you return. Your dog will, most likely, keep soliciting you with appeasement behaviors, such as submissive urination or licking or pawing and being hypervigilant about you leaving again.

What a mess you’ve created. This pattern is ongoing when you are home or gone. This is one version of separation anxiety.

What’s the solution? Well, if it isn’t obvious, then we should set up a lesson. Hint: you are going to have to get your dog off this dysfunctional merry-go-round of emotions. You’re going to have to learn to relate to your dog in a better way.

Intro Video