Are you guilty of having hit your dog? Has it not been looking at you quite the same since? Do you simply want to learn how to discipline your dog without resorting to violence? Then come on through, as today we hope to clear up any confusion surrounding dogs and the violence committed against them in the name of communication and discipline.
Table of Contents
- What Happens When a Dog is Punished Physically?
- How Well Do Dogs Remember?
- How to Communicate Discipline Without Violence?
- How to Leave Anger Out
- Can Dogs Forgive?
- Will My Dog Forgive Me for Hitting Him? Now You Know
What Happens When a Dog is Punished Physically?
Well, the first thing to understand is that it hurts. Dogs have a highly developed nervous system, about as complex as that of a human. So they can feel pain about as much as we do.
Depending on how hard you hit them, you can expect them to feel it about as much as a human would. Sure, they will not understand why you did it as immediately as a human might, but they will understand that you have hurt them and caused them pain and shame.
The fear incurred by this act might even be enough to cause them to retaliate, barking and biting at you with a vengeance.
In the long term, this can have a number of severe effects on a dog, fostering some crippling social defects. It can, for example, become more apprehensive, overly submissive, or even cower in your presence. Besides not being the kind of companion you might want, this is also the gravest sadness – to have committed your dog to a life of submission in this way.
More than anything, attacking a dog in this way can damage the otherwise strong bond that might grow between you and it, introducing an element of fear and distrust where there might otherwise have been reverence and affection.
Indeed, it has been shown that bad behavior on the part of a dog is not an attempt to exhibit dominance but simply a misstep. They are essentially children, after all, unable to communicate in the myriad ways we humans can.
Physically retaliating to a dog’s misbehavior will, thus, only turn them into an adversary instead of having them view you as the so-called ‘leader of the pack’ that you might want to be seen as.
How Well Do Dogs Remember?
More than we might initially think, actually. Certain studies on the subject have shown that dogs might be capable of what is known as episodic memory. This means that they can effectively travel back in time through their memories to recall specific events, places, and emotional responses they have experienced – even people a lot of the time.
This stands in stark contrast to the kind of semantic memory that researchers previously thought dogs used. This is the kind of memory that only recalls events that have something to do with survival.
Thus, the ability to absorb and recall these kinds of memories is indicative of a self-awareness that many of you might otherwise have thought a dog incapable of.
In this way, it is entirely within the realms of possibility for a dog to look at you and recall the previous occasion(s) where you might have mistreated it. They can harbor a deep distrust and fear that might be very difficult to change.
A stereotypically aggressive dog will likely be reacting to earlier memories of abuse. They’ll respond to contact with the outside world by biting, barking, growling, and/or fighting.
Similarly, an abused dog might also be overly submissive and a neglected dog will be overly attention-seeking. They can form unhealthy attachments with owners – following them everywhere in some cases.
Surely it should be easy to see how memories harbored within a dog in this way act as a catalyst for who they are and who they will become. It is, therefore, up to you in a lot of ways to ensure that they get the best life they can possibly have. Make sure that the memories they form under your care and tutelage are riddled with joy.
Just as with humans – who themselves repeatedly act out the traumas they have played out in childhood – the abuses you inflict on your dog could very well play out repeatedly for them throughout the rest of their life.
How to Communicate Discipline Without Violence?
Before going forth, it is well worth committing to memory and learning by heart the idea that it is in no way acceptable to commit violence against your dog – for all the reasons stated above and beyond.
A key thing to consider is your body language and tone of voice when trying to communicate with a dog. Using a more stern stance will go a long way. Maintain eye contact and offer an alternative route to the misbehavior they are about to commit.
If you are wanting to reprimand the dog after the fact, doing about it violently is going to do nothing. It will fail to instill the kind of discipline you think it might. It won’t properly to link their bad behavior to your punishment.
Shouting is neither a good idea nor is it necessary.
If you already have a good relationship with your dog, it will no doubt already be familiar with how your voice sounds normally or in happy moments. Therefore, it will not take more than using an authoritative tone to get your point across.
Shouting can actually have the inverse effect. A dog will quickly become numb to it and learn that they can ignore you rather than paying strict emotional attention – much as a child might, in fact.
Instead of using violence and aggression (negative reinforcement), it is best to work from the opposite direction via positive reinforcement. In this way, you can reward your dog when it does something good. Then ignore their misbehavior, denying it the attention it so craves.
Equally, you can set the dog in time-out. This way, it is denied this attention or you can take its toys away.
How to Leave Anger Out
One of the key things to try to do when attempting to discipline a dog is to leave anger and frustration as far away from the exercise as possible.
Sure, dogs are intelligent and capable of many empathetic acts, etc. But they are not crafty enough to commit a wrong deed against you knowing the consequences.
Much as with a young child, a misdeed will come from a place of misunderstanding. They do not know the limits of their desires and how to control them.
Calming yourself down before you try to calm down your dog is the best way to begin. This also allows time for the dog to calm itself down. Shift your focus to something while taking some deep breaths, and thinking positively all the while.
Expecting a literal dog to behave like a civilized person all the time simply does not do. Surely dogs behave well enough generally to be excused some of the time for their misdemeanors. Centuries and centuries of domestication have left an animal that would put its life on the line for us, after all.
The punishment must fit the crime. Can you think of an act that is so dramatic as to require beating up a more or less defenseless dog?
Can Dogs Forgive?
This is a pretty grand philosophical question. It is one that tends to be asked after the fact of having hit the dog.
The short answer is, yes, they can, though only in a manner of speaking.
Many studies suggest that dogs feel emotions in much the same way as a toddler. They can feel fear, happiness, distress, love, etc, but not a whole lot else.
Thus, it would be a bit of a stretch to say that an emotion as complex as forgiveness is within the capabilities of a baby, let alone a dog.
Emotions that dogs feel are, also, founded more on patterns of behavior than specific instances.
Looking at pets in shelters, some exhibit some intense symptoms of aggression or submission. Yet they might be entirely warm or kind with a new owner. This is because patterns of behavior have caused them to build up a mental picture of a previous owner.
Hounds do not recall specific instances as much as they understand via habitual and repeated patterns of behavior to which they are inflicted. So, if you learn from your mistake and do not commit violence against your dog again, it might just forget and give the illusion that it has forgiven you.
Will My Dog Forgive Me for Hitting Him? Now You Know
So, there you have it! Hopefully, you are now feeling much better equipped to properly communicate with your dog, having let go of any of those aggressive and violent tendencies that simply hold no sway here.
Hitting or physically punishing a dog is not an effective or ethical way to discipline or communicate with them. Dogs do not respond well to physical punishment, and it can have negative effects on their behavior, trust, and overall well-being.
Disciplining your dog using positive and effective training methods should not lead to your dog hating you. In fact, when discipline is implemented in a constructive and respectful manner, it can strengthen the bond between you and your dog.