You Can’t Punish Your Dog Into Obedience Without Serious Fallout

Why You Can’t Punish Your Dog into Obedience: A Positive Approach to Dog Training

In the realm of dog training, the debate between using punishment and positive reinforcement is ongoing. However, an increasing number of experts are advocating for a positive approach, citing that you can’t—and shouldn’t—punish your dog into obedience. This blog post will delve into why punishment is not an effective tool for training dogs, and how positive reinforcement offers a more humane and effective alternative.

What is Punishment in Dog Training?

The simplest answer is: anything the learner, the dog in this case, finds aversive. A lot of dog owners I speak with say they would never use punishment, but when you delve further into their definition of punishment, their idea is kicking, hitting, slapping, etc.  In reality, punishment can be yelling, jerking on the leash, squirting water at, using loud noises, all the way up to hitting, slapping, or using a shock collar, vibration collar, etc. We, the human end of the leash, do not get to determine what is punishing to our dogs any more than we get to determine what is reinforcing to our dogs.

Understanding the Impact of Punishment

Short-Term Gains vs. Long-Term Harm:

Punishment might seem to yield immediate results, but it often comes at a cost. Dogs may learn to fear the punisher or the context in which they were punished, leading to increased anxiety and stress.

Breaking the Trust Bond:

Dogs thrive on trust and companionship with their owners. Punishment can erode this trust, making dogs more timid or potentially aggressive.


Punishment often fails to communicate to the dog what the desired behavior actually is. It can create confusion and fear, as dogs may not understand why they are being punished.

The Power of Positive Reinforcement

Building Trust and Confidence:

Positive reinforcement, such as treats, praise, or play, rewards desired behavior, which encourages the dog to repeat it. This method builds trust and confidence between the dog and the owner.

Encourages Learning:

Dogs are more likely to learn and retain new behaviors when they associate training with positive experiences.

Fosters a Positive Relationship:

Training sessions become an opportunity for bonding and fun, enhancing the relationship rather than causing fear or anxiety.

Addressing Unwanted Behaviors

Understanding the Cause:

Rather than punishing unwanted behaviors, it’s crucial to understand their cause – such as boredom, fear, or lack of exercise – and address the root of the issue.

Redirecting Behavior:

Instead of punishment, redirecting your dog’s behavior towards something positive is a more effective strategy. This approach teaches them what to do, instead of stopping what you don’t like for a temporary period of time.

Developing Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Awareness:

Dogs trained with positive reinforcement develop better emotional control and awareness, making them well-adjusted pets.

Building Confidence:

Positive methods help build a dog’s confidence, especially important for shy or fearful dogs.


Training your dog should be about building a bond based on mutual trust and understanding. Punishment undermines this relationship and can lead to negative behavioral consequences. In contrast, positive reinforcement is a humane and effective approach to training that not only teaches your dog desired behaviors, but also fosters a happy, confident, and well-adjusted companion. Embracing this approach is key to a harmonious and loving relationship with your dog.