Everyone has a different opinion on how we treat our furry companions. Some would defend tough love, while other owners may find it barbaric. Others – especially in the generation that is opting to raise pets instead of children – treat and dress their dog as their four-legged child. What we fail to realize is how this is affecting our dogs.
We may be hurting our beloved dogs without realizing it. Researchers are looking into how you train and treat your dog, and they have made some heartbreaking discoveries.
Treating Your Dog Like a Human (Or a Baby)
Anthropomorphizing our dogs allows us to see them for what they are – a man’s best friend. It’s one thing to lavish them with treats, time, affection, and fancy but effective dog flea collars. We get it; you love your dog, and you want the very best for them.
However, if you’re not looking into why your dog is behaving in a specific way, or if you’re letting it do whatever it wants, you may be doing you both a disfavor. Interpreting destructive behavior in dogs as “cute”, or applying human concepts such as revenge or spite, can cause you to ignore underlying issues. You’re unintentionally misunderstanding their needs.
We love our dogs to the moon and back, and we are confident we would never do anything to harm them, but we may be abusing them without realizing it. When dogs do something wrong, our first reaction is to yell. It seems like a mild enough punishment, but it is shown to be detrimental to a dog’s mental health.
Aversive dog training, or punishment-based training, is a method used to stop unwanted behavior by disturbing their senses and making them uncomfortable. The objective is for them to associate the bad feeling with the unwanted behavior.
The Effects of the Aversive Method
Research studies confirm that negative reinforcement can endanger a dog’s mental and physical health. Dogs that undergo aversive training with yelling and leash-jerking were tense and displayed physical signs of stress. They also found higher levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the dog’s saliva samples.
During testing, the long term results were apparent: the use of aversive training can actually result in pessimistic dogs. Instead of learning what not to do, they would react by being less eager and more fearful.
The more frequent a dog was being “trained”, the more obvious the pessimism appeared. It also increased the likelihood of developing mental health issues such as fear, aggressiveness, or separation anxiety.
Respect Them as Dogs, Love Them Like Family
Loving and caring for your dogs has nothing to do with giving them what you think they deserve; it’s about finding out what they need, and how they should be treated. Sometimes, we have to train ourselves to learn our dog’s language so that we can respect them and prioritize their well-being.