If your dog chews up your new pair of kicks or steals a chicken tender from your plate, your first instinct might be to yell at it from the top of your lungs, and understandably so. Haven’t we all been guilty of screaming at our dog children in frustration? But the next time you feel the urge to yell at your pup, please use your six-inch voice instead, because you might actually be doing serious harm!
As ScienceAlert reports, a recent study conducted by the Universidade do Porto in Portugal shows that aversive training methods can have negative effects on your dog’s mental state. These aversive methods include not just yelling at the dog but also jerking its leash and other “physical manipulation” (which I hope doesn’t mean hitting it). Researchers studied nearly 100 dogs in Porto, including 50 that were trained using the aforementioned aversive methods and 42 that had attended a training school that used reward-based training, such as treats or playtime.
“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 said. They found that the aversively trained dogs showed elevated cortisol levels and exhibited behaviors like yawning and lip licking, both of which are signs that a dog is stressed or nervous; these dogs were also shown to be more “pessimistic in a cognitive bias task.” Meanwhile, the reward-trained pups showed fewer stress-related behaviors as well as normal cortisol levels.
“Critically, our study points to the fact that the welfare of companion dogs trained with aversive-based methods appears to be at risk,” the researchers concluded. Listen, most dog parents probably don’t want to traumatize their pet. So the next time you want to yell at your dog son, you might want to scream into a pillow instead.