Why is my owner shouting at me?

January 3, 2020

According to animal behaviour experts, it's useless—and even harmful—to scold your dog.

Sophie was head over heels in love with Edmond, an adorable puppy, when she adopted him. But on the day he devoured her favourite pair of shoes, it was a whole other story. Sophie put the shredded shoes under her dog's nose and loudly enunciated the word “No!”. Because Edmond's expression was sadder than usual, Sophie felt he'd “understood” the message.

She was wrong, however. “Unlike people, animals don't develop the notions of what's good and what's bad,” says Francis Rousseau, an animal-health technician at DMV Veterinary Center in Quebec. “Acting the way Sophie did may scare your dog or even break the bond of confidence that's so important to build up.”

Rather than berating Edmond, Sophie would have been better off removing any precious objects from her dog's reach and positively reinforcing his good behaviour. What if Edmond decides to chew on the furniture? She should try to distract him so that he loses interest.

Francis Rousseau explains that if Sophie tells Edmond off because he's urinated inside, he'll associate the scolding with her presence. The chances are that he'll do it again as soon as she turns her back. Instead, Sophie should reward her dog when he does his business in the right place; that way he'll learn correct behaviour and the trusting relationship between Sophie and her dog will not be in jeopardy.


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