Researchers found that yelling at dogs is not good for their mental health and it has a long-term negative impact on their happiness.
As much as you want to have a well-trained dog, using aversive training such as negative reinforcement is not reasonable. When you punish, threaten or yell at your dog, they will take this negatively and will affect their mental state for a long time.
This is backed by a new study in Portugal in which the researchers studied the effects of aversive-based training on dogs. “Our results show that companion dogs trained using aversive-based methods experienced poorer welfare as compared to companion dogs trained using reward-based methods, at both the short and the long-term level,” the researchers wrote in their paper.
They also found that dogs being trained by aversive-based schools showed more stress-related body posture and behaviors during their training. Due to higher cortisol elevations after training, they felt more pessimistic towards the tasks.
Specifically, the researchers studied 92 pet dogs. 50 of them were from aversive-based training schools while 40 of them were trained using reward-based methods. They filmed the animals during their training sessions and took saliva samples to assess their cortisone levels from training.
The dogs in aversive-based classes unsurprisingly showed higher stress behaviors like lip-licking, paw-raising and yawning. There were also increased cortisone levels found in their saliva compared to when they were just relaxing at home.
On the other hand, dogs in reward-based training classes were more relaxed during training and had normal cortisone levels.
Sausage in a Bowl
The researchers then underwent another assessment where they asked the dogs to locate a bowl with sausage in it. The dogs in reward-based training classes searched for the bowl more quickly. Because they were used to rewards, they immediately got excited just by smelling the sausage.
Sadly for the dogs in aversive training classes, they approached the bowl more slowly. They were obviously hesitant because they had a negative feeling about what’s inside the bowl.
This study only suggests that aversive training in dogs can be risky for dogs’ mental health and well-being.
The Danger of Domination
Perhaps one of the main reasons why aversive training is not ideal for dogs is because it puts them in physical danger. One example of this is alpha roll wherein the trainer forces the dog onto its back, putting him into a vulnerable position. Some trainers even yell at dogs and threaten them until they submit to them.
Another dangerous training method is leash jerking. Some pet owners do this to stop their dog from behaving inappropriately. However, this will not only hurt the dog physically but will also make the dog more anxious and aggressive.
When aversive training methods are not performed correctly, it may injure dogs and cause more physical risks. Aversive training may also cause loss of trust in owners and even more in strangers. Apparently, dominance in dogs is not good for their physical and mental health.
If you have dogs and want to train them, you can opt from more positive ones such as science-based training, positive reinforcement and relationship-based training.