Behavioral problems

Is it Bad to Tell Dogs Off?

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. October 18, 2016
Is it Bad to Tell Dogs Off?

See files for Dogs

Does your dog misbehave? Do you not know what to do when it doesn't pay attention to you or breaks something?

All these situations are more common than you think, and many people go through the same during their dog's training process. Even though dogs are not always well behaved, telling a dog off is not an effective way to get it to stop behaving badly. This is because most behavioral problems in dogs are directly related to a lack or a deficiency in some aspect of basic care.

Keep reading this Animal Wised article and discover if it is bad to tell a dog off and what you should do when they misbehave.

You may also be interested in: How to Keep Cats Off the Back of the Couch

In certain circumstances, telling a dog off can be a serious mistake

Understanding a dog's behavior and its natural form of communication is not always easy, especially if your best friend has been up to no good and you are angry with it. However, their expressions, sounds and body language can reveal a lot about what they are trying to tell you.

For example, if a dog growls it is giving you a warning and letting you know that it wants to be left in peace. A growling dog is having a bad time and it doesn't want you to continue with what you are doing. In these cases, telling your dog off can be counterproductive because you're telling it that growling is bad; it will skip that step and get on to biting. Find out why your dog is growling before telling it off.

Something similar happens when they bare their teeth and squint their eyes, which has a similar meaning: "Don't bother me". Here you can learn more about how to know if your dog is angry.

Another circumstance in which you should never tell off a dog is when you notice one of the most common behavioral problems in dogs: Separation anxiety. You can easily tell if your dog has separation anxiety, as it is manifested when you arrive home and find everything broken and chewed up, with the dog incessantly barking, etc. We recommend using a Kong to treat separation anxiety, as dogs find this toy calming and entertaining.

Fears, phobias and other negative or strange behaviors should be examined by a professional. Telling off a dog that suffers from behavioral problems will make it feel even more stressed and nervous, which will make the problem that you already have even worse.

If you see your dog has drooping ears, its tail between its legs or it tries to run away, it's because you're making it have a bad time and that it is scared. Stop telling it off at once; your dog can't understand why you punish it, since the bad deed has been done too long ago to link it with the scolding.

Never forget that hitting a dog is animal abuse. Go to the specialist if you detect a health or behavior-related problem, and try to understand your pet through positivity and comfort. If you don't understand the need to empathize with your dog and build trust with it on a daily basis, it's better not to have a dog at all.

Is it Bad to Tell Dogs Off? - In certain circumstances, telling a dog off can be a serious mistake

What should you do when your dog behaves badly?

If your dog regularly behaves badly you should commit to taking it to a specialist such as an ethologist, which is a vet that specializes in canine behavior. By knowing about the dog's habits and how it is looked after, and by observing its behavior, an ethologist will be able to offer you a diagnosis and guidelines to follow in order to improve its bad behavior.

Check the five freedoms of animal welfare, as they can be a quick guide to work out if you are caring for your dog properly or not. For example, a lack of walks can lead to nervousness and destructive habits. Meanwhile, a dog that lives outdoors or spends too much time alone can feel abandoned, and consequently start exhibiting repetitive destructive behaviors in order to somehow get your attention.

When you catch your dog behaving badly, you should try to turn it around and redirect their behavior into a more pleasing one. For example, if your dog bites all your furniture you should quickly bring it a toy or chew toy, and praise it when it bites it. If your dog urinates in the house, don't tell it off. Instead, when you think it is going to urinate again try and prevent the event by quickly taking it outside. There you should effusively congratulate it so that it remembers where it should be doing it.

As you can see, we recommend basing all dog training on positive reinforcement. This method is used by dog trainers and ethologists around the world, since it doesn't worsen behavioral problems and offers the great advantage of helping the dog understand better. Additionally, it creates an association between good behavior and being rewarded, which will help you to improve everything that you need to.

Being constantly obedient, patient, respectful and sincerely affectionate towards the animal - while using positive reinforcement - will help you improve your relationship with your dog, therefore allowing you to appropriately work on any problems that may arise without resorting to telling it off.

How are you going to train your dog? In your opinion, is it bad to tell dogs off? Comment and share your opinion with other users so that they can hear all points of view.

Is it Bad to Tell Dogs Off? - What should you do when your dog behaves badly?

If you want to read similar articles to Is it Bad to Tell Dogs Off?, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.

Write a comment
Add an image
Click to attach a photo related to your comment
What did you think of this article?
Thanks for a fairly concise and informative article. It’s a lot less wordy than some out there. I generally defer to the specialists and this prevailing perspective that says dogs should not be treated harshly whether it’s being told off or otherwise. They should be treated with the utmost respect and love. Placing yourself in an adversarial context to your dog is never good, and that’s basically what telling off involves.

However, one thing about this analysis bugs me. It is a question I don’t see being answered anywhere. Dog’s mothers, when they’re raising them, do positively reinforce good behaviours (being calm), but they also won’t hesitate to chastise their babies if they’re being out of order. It helps define the puppies’ understanding of how they fit in to the world; what they should and shouldn’t do. We wouldn’t say that these mothers are fostering an unhealthy relationship with their puppies, or that they’re causing behavioural issues, would we? So why does it then apply to humans? If a puppy is being really ‘out of order’ (and yes perhaps these bad behaviours are on us, but as a new dog owner it can be hard to tell) then is it so bad to give them a bit of a warning that we don’t like their behaviour?

My puppy (lab, 13 weeks, Pip) loves playing with his big brother from another mother (also lab, different parents, 10 months.) The older lab is fantastic with him, and very patient. It’s taught us a lot about how to handle our new puppy. He’ll be very excitable but infinitely gentle, and let him bite and attack and hump without feeling the need to tell him off. But once or twice, Pip has bitten his older bro too hard and he’s reacted with a Yelp or growl and given him a little ‘corrective bite’. Pip was quite startled when this first happened but he loves him just as much as before. He just won’t bite as hard. Is this so bad? And if not, is it terrible if we humans have our own standards of behaviour that, try though we may to correct with aversion and positive reinforcement, sometimes we have to let him know are not ok?
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Joe,

There is a lot to cover here, but the main point to address is the fact that dogs and humans are different species. A dog communicating with another dog will have a reciprocity which we don't have. As much as we can infer from behavior and body language, when we scold a dog, there is too much gray area. A mother dog can be direct in a way we cannot. The best we can do is use the knowledge experts have provide, be positive and respond to the behavior of the individual dog accordingly.
it's crazy how many people still think it is OK to shout at, hit or otherwise abuse their dog. I see it happening in the dog park with other ownes around. I know some of them think they are doing the right thing, but I think many just don't care if they harm their dog by being cruel.
some people come to this website is to find out if they are telling off a dog but some people do not know what telling a dog off means. so your whole article might be a 5 star rating but when it does not make since how can it be a 5 star rating it would be a 1 start rating and that is why I gave you a 1 star rating. :(
It is obvious from your comment that being clear and easily understood is important to you. Thanks for sharing.
Alayna Sunrider
It has been far too long since you have left this comment, and you wouldn't know why I was because it was long ago you came here to say comment and you wouldn't understand why I would resort to telling you off if you left a crappy comment. I won't tell you off because you wouldn't know why I was telling you off because you left it too long ago for them to be associated. Comment.
1 of 3
Is it Bad to Tell Dogs Off?