Shouting At Your Dog Could Traumatise It Long-Term, New Research Warns
It's true what they say, having a dog really is like having a child.
You can love your pet more than anything, but sometimes when they chew up the sofa or wake you up by barking at the letter box you just can't help but raise your voice a little.
But a new study has shown that shouting at your dog can actually traumatise them long-term.
The research paper looked at 42 dogs from obedience schools that used rewards-based training and 50 dogs from aversion training schools and sought to determine which method was better.
During the study, each dog was filmed during the first 15 minutes of three training sessions, and researchers took saliva samples to assess the cortisol levels of each pooch after training.
Three saliva samples were also taken from each dog when they were relaxing at home in order to understand what their baseline level of cortisol was, as a means of comparison.
The researchers, led by biologist Ana Catarina Vieira de Castro of the Universidade do Porto in Portugal, also looked carefully at the dogs' behaviour during the training sessions for stress indicators.
And it found that dogs who had experienced shouting and lead pulling during their training were more stressed, and demonstrated elevated stress behaviours, like yawning and lip-licking.
Meanwhile, pups who were taught in a more gentle manner tended to display fewer stress behaviours.
The cortisol levels also reflected a similar pattern, with the dogs taught with shouting and tough love having raised levels of cortisol in their saliva.
The research paper explained: "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 behaviours and body postures during training, higher elevations in cortisol levels after training, and were more 'pessimistic' in a cognitive bias task."
And the worrying thing is that these affects weren't just shown immediately after training, but also remained long-term.
Re-visiting the pups one month later, researchers found that the aversion trained dogs still had a much more negative attitude.
They demonstrated this by placing an empty bowl on one side of the room and a delicious sausage snack on the other. Switching the bowls around the room to see how long the dogs would take to find the treat, they found that these dogs tended to have a slower approach to the task, indicating they were less hopeful about the bowl's contents.
"Critically our study points to the fact that the welfare of companion dogs trained with aversive-based methods appears to be at risk," the study concludes.
So next time your dog starts to grind your gears, perhaps think twice before raising your voice - it could be doing more damage than you'd think.
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