It’s all too easy to forget that our dogs aren’t mere pets, but actual members of our homes and families with tender emotions and psyches not unlike our young.
As such, we should be extremely careful about how we interact with our dogs, especially after a new study was released showing that if we shout at our dogs we are not only scaring them, but leaving them traumatized over a long-term period.
Instead, we’re better off showing patience as we rear our pups rather than flying off the handle and psychologically damaging our beloved canine friends, reports Science Alert.
The findings come from research carried out by biologist Ana Catarina Vieira de Castro of the University of Porto in Portugal, who recruited 42 dogs from schools that utilized training based on rewards, and 50 dogs from schools based on aversion training.
Each dog was filmed during the first 15 minutes of three training sessions, and those dogs who had undergone a harsh regime of screaming and leash-jerking were found to have higher levels of cortisol in their saliva, indicating elevated levels of stress.
In the paper published by biology news service bioRxiv, the researchers write:
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“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.
“Specifically, dogs attending schools using aversive-based methods displayed more stress-related behaviors and body postures during training, higher elevations in cortisol levels after training, and were more ‘pessimistic’ in a cognitive bias task.”
Additionally, those dogs who underwent aversion training weren’t limited to feeling stress only in the immediate aftermath of training, but also felt stressed-out in the long-term, well after training.
In a study conducted one month later, researchers trained the dogs to associate a bowl on one side of a room with a sausage snack. If a bowl was located on one side it always had a tasty snack, but when it was located on the opposite side, the bowl was empty.
The bowls were then switched around to gauge how fast the dogs would seek out the treat. Faster dogs anticipated snacks, while slower dogs were less hopeful and a bit more fatalistic about the possibility of finding a treat.
As the researchers expected, dogs who underwent aversive training were far more apprehensive when approaching bowls, while those who had received positive reinforcement during training were far quicker in figuring out the location of their snack.
The researchers noted:
“Critically, our study points to the fact that the welfare of companion dogs trained with aversive-based methods appears to be at risk.”
While our dogs are not humans capable of verbalizing their emotions to us, they should certainly not be mistreated or bear the brunt of our tempers when they fail to behave as we might like them to.
And while some dog owners may find it harmless in the long run to scream at a dog or even slap it when it misbehaves, such behavior can only damage our beloved canines.