Yelling at your dog can cause long-term trauma and destroy your relationship

Updated: Mar 15, 2020

In this fast-paced world of ours, we can easily become stressed by daily activities and end up becoming impatient with our beloved dogs, not realizing that this can actually harm the relationship and traumatize our dog.

We actually need to walk away, breathe, and use patience and kindness with our dogs, as has been shown in a recent study which showed that yelling at our dogs not only scares them but leaves them traumatized for a long period of time.

The study was conducted by biologist Ana Catarina Vieira de Castro of the University of Porto in Portugal.  Her research team looked at 92 dogs, 42 which were trained using positive training methods and 50 which were trained using aversive methods.

The dogs were filmed and subsquently saliva tested during the first 15 minutes of a training session.  Those dogs who were trained using aversives, such as yelling and leash jerking, had higher levels of cortisol in their saliva, which indicates higher levels of stress.

The aversive trained dogs also showed more stress-related behaviors and body postures during training, and this stress was shown to continue long-term, well after the training session was over.

A follow-up study was done on the same dogs one month after the inital study, training the dogs to figure out that treats were in a bowl on one side of a room but not on the other side of the room.  As they expected, the aversive trained dogs were apprehensive when they approached the bowls, whereas the positive trained dogs figured out the location of the treat quite quickly.  

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.”

Our dogs cannot tell us how they feel and how our treatment affects them, so we should take care to treat them kindly and not let our emotions or bad mood effect how we treat (or mistreat) our loving dogs.

Some dog owners don’t see any issues with screaming at their dog, telling it off or even smacking if it misbehaves.  We now know that this behavior damages the dog not only in the immediate, but in the long-term.

One person at a time, we can change the face of dog ownership, by showing others that kind, fun, optimistic training is just as effective and much less traumatizing than punitive training methods.  We can show other owners how playing games and building concepts in our dogs brain can boost the relationship, work through the problems and keep the interactions positive, kind, and loving.

Our dogs are deserving of all our love, patience and kindness.  They give all this to us and ask for nothing in return.  Let us do the same.