Retroactive Punishment


A huge misconception in disciplinary action for misbehavior in dogs is: that they can understand retroactive punishment.

If I don’t do my homework on Monday, and my mom finds out on Friday, and I get grounded on Sunday; I can understand: “I’m grounded today because I didn’t do my homework earlier this week”. I won’t like it, but I’ll understand it. Our dogs cannot. Our dogs can only understand us in the moment.

If my dog chews the remote while I am at work and then hears me come in the door, she gets excited to see me. I’m excited to see her, then I see the remote. My demeanor changes. I pick up the remote hold it in front of me and scold her or spank her with it. She cowers, licks her lips and drops her head. We went from a happy exchange to complete negativity and she doesn’t know why. She may associate that negative energy with the remote and never touch it again….but not because I taught her anything… because I created a negative association. She doesn’t think…”oh mom is mad now because I ate the remote”. She only knows that in that moment of confusion and negativity the remote was in my hand and that it happened when she was excited to see me return.

When I think of what I want from my dog I want: bravery, loyalty, partnership, love and protection. If I punish without explanation, cue development, and most importantly a fair chance to have an appropriate outlet for energy, I become unpredictable.

I cause her to be: timid, nervous, anxious, and unsure of expectation and I create holes in my leadership position. There are numerous negative side effects that may grow from there. Including fear based anxiety and possibly aggression. I must set my dog up for success. I must remove chances for unwanted behavior (putting the trash out of reach, picking up the remote) and provide an alternative outlet for energy (exercise before I leave, mental stimulation, toys etc). A great tool is watching “guilty dog” videos. Watching the body language can really help us see the misunderstanding. The dogs don’t feel “guilty”….they feel scared and confused.

Knowledge. Respect. Passion.

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