Seven Effects of Punishment

Oct 6, 2014 | Training

Here are seven documented possible side effects of the use of punishmentnegative reinforcement, and of aversives in general.

  1. Escape/Avoidance: If you hurt or scare your dog, he will likely try to avoid you, the places you frequent, and whatever else it associates with the hurt.
  2. Operant Aggression: If you hurt or scare your dog, it may hurt you back.
  3. Elicited Aggression: If you hurt or scare your dog, it may hurt your other dog or your kid.
  4. Apathy: If you hurt or scare your dog a lot, he may become apathetic and not do much of anything.
  5. Conditioned Suppression/Learned Helplessness: If you hurt or scare your dog a lot unpredictably, he will live in a state of fear and also may not do much of anything.
  6. Injury: If you hurt your dog you could cause him injury.
  7. Reinforcement of the Punisher: If you hurt or scare your dog regularly, your actions will easily be reinforced and become habitual. On the occasion that your actions don’t work to interrupt or decrease behavior, you will tend to escalate the hurt.

These are the things you risk if you use pain, fear, force, coercion, intimidation, or even startling to train your dog. The effects are not limited to training “tools” such as are featured in the picture below. Not all of them will happen all the time. But they are all possible, and we can’t know ahead of time which dogs (and which owners) will be strongly affected by the use of aversive methods. That’s the short version. For scientific references, check the resource page described and linked below.

Pic by Eileen Anderson, do not reuse

Some aversives used in dog training

Introducing the Aversives Resource Page

Here it is: Eileen Anderson's pic, do not reuseFallout from Use of Aversives in Punishment and Negative Reinforcement: A Reference List This resource page cites articles, most of them classics from peer reviewed journals, on the above types of fallout. It is provided for people who need or want to investigate the original sources. Most types of aversive fallout are so well documented that the reader can check out the original article and follow a cascade of research following it. Besides classic sources for the above effects, I’ve listed the main studies that document side effects of painful or scary training for dogs, and also a couple of other important references. Like many of my projects, the page is ongoing. If it is helpful to you, please share it. If I have left out something important, please let me know!