Science agrees: train your pooch with love, not punishment

Researchers from the University of Porto have found that negative dog training -- methods like shouting, pushing, or pulling the dog -- can lead to long-term adverse effects on your dog’s mental health.

They followed ninety-two companion dogs being trained with two very different kinds of schools of dog training: aversive (negative reinforcement) and reward-based.

Dogs being exposed to the aversive training methods were observed to have more stress-related behaviors and also showed increased levels of cortisol than those in the reward-based group.

Being a proud parent of two Labrador Retrievers, I know that living with pets is not always all fun and games. No matter how cute they are, we still have to teach them to be disciplined and obey their humans -- but we have to do it without causing harm.

Earlier studies have suggested that food is the best reward to get dogs to perform the behaviors you want. That is, they respond faster for food than for social interactions.

Before doing anything, you should keep a close eye on your dog's daily activities and emotions and try to understand the reason behind any misbehavior. Here are a few typical reasons for a dog's excessive barking or violent behavior:

  • Anxiety. Moving to a new house can be a challenge for dogs, who tend to be super sensitive to changes in their environment. Reactions can include persistent barking, chewing, poor or extreme appetite, restlessness, destructive behavior, and likewise. You have to observe these reactions and try giving more attention to your dog.
  • Boredom. During festivals or family occasions, your dog tends to spend more time indoors, which becomes frustrating for the dog. The reaction is almost always excessive barking, digging, and other destructive behaviors. If proper care is not taken, it may lead to significant issues like separation anxiety and obsessive behavior.
  • Adolescent dog behavior. Adolescent period typically begins around 5-6 months of age and ends when the dog reaches physical maturity around 2-3 years of age. You will notice pronounced behavioral changes between 6-12 months old. This phase can be challenging for all parents as there is a change in hormones, brain, and body that affect your dog’s physical and psychological abilities. Don’t worry; it's very normal!
  • Breed characteristics. Different breeds react differently during varied circumstances. Like your terrier is meant to dig while retrievers want to carry stuff all around. Rather than restricting them from their instincts, help them to become better with what they are born with. For example: Labrador Retrievers are sporting dogs, and my female lab (Bella) loves going for squirrels. It becomes difficult to manage her due to her physique. I have bought her soft toys -- inhabiting every nook and cranny of my house at this point. She is happy playing with them all day long.

So how do you make your dog more disciplined without harming it? The right way is to train your dog from an early age as it is easier for you to teach and what you do teach gets more easily absorbed by your dog.

Appreciate good behavior with either food or cuddles, anything your dog prefers the most. On the other hand, you can also deprive your dog of your attention -- but only if it has a positive impact on your dog and make sure it doesn’t get worse.

6 effective reward-based dog training methods

Your focus should be to make your dog understand what is right and what cannot be tolerated. Shift your attention towards more constructive and practical approaches that bring the desired change you want from your dog.

You can do the following:

Take a walk with your furball everyday

Physical and mental exercise is a must for dogs. Boredom can be a reason for misbehavior. Schedule a fixed time of daily exercise and reward your dog by taking it to a park or its favorite ice cream parlor. The workout duration depends on the age, breed, and tolerance your dog has.

Talk with your dog and keep track of its daily activities

Your dog wants your attention- it may be in the form of a quick pet, cuddle, and even a simple chat. Your pooch is super intelligent in reading your expressions and will quickly understand. While working in the other room, I make sure to call out names and minutely observe its daily activities and behavior.

Use calm voice commands

As an owner, you need to have full control over your dog so that even an ‘N-O’ gives a clear signal that it has to obey you. Make sure you say it calmly to attain authority over your dog.

Correct your dog at the exact moment it misbehaves

You don’t want your dog to be confused or think that your reward is for doing the wrong thing. So, correct and reward it at the same moment.

Special treats when it behaves exceptionally well

I feel good rewarding my dogs every time they behave well. Whenever they listen or obey you, make it feel loved, and give special treats. My Bella loves carrots, so every time she is well-mannered, there is a carrot that goes right into her bowl. Repeat your actions so that they understand you.

Don’t overdo it

Don’t over pamper your furry friend or prefer harsh punishments. Be cautious when rewarding your dog and depriving them of your special attention. In the end, all you want is a better bonding with your dog. Observe all its actions so that you know what works well.


Just like human beings, change is difficult for dogs. You need loads of patience, consistency, and commitment. Fill your furball with loads of love, food, and ‘we’ time.

Be good and treat animals well!

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  1. 4 years ago

    Thank you for the great post, Nancie!

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