Shouting at your dog is a common reaction for frustrated pet owners, but it often does more harm than good. Dogs do not understand yelling and shouting in the same way that humans do. Shouting at a dog can actually increase behavioral problems instead of correcting them. There are more effective and humane ways to train and communicate with your dog.
Does shouting work for dogs?
The short answer is no – shouting usually does not work for training dogs. Here’s why:
- Dogs don’t understand the meaning of shouted words
- Shouting stresses dogs out
- Shouting can reinforce bad behaviors
Dogs do not actually understand the meanings of human words in the same way humans do. They read body language and tone of voice more than the words themselves. So when an owner is shouting at their dog, the dog does not understand the specific words being yelled, only that the owner is angry. This can create stress and confusion for the dog.
Additionally, shouting causes dogs stress. Dogs have very sensitive hearing, far more so than humans. So shouting creates discomfort and releases stress hormones in dogs that interfere with their ability to learn.
Finally, shouting can inadvertently reinforce the very behavior the owner is attempting to stop. This is because shouting is giving the dog attention for the bad behavior. Even negative attention from the owner is still attention in the dog’s mind.
Health risks of shouting at dogs
In addition to being ineffective for training, shouting at dogs also carries some health risks, both for you and your pet. Here are some of the health risks to be aware of:
Risks to humans
- Increased stress hormones
- Increased blood pressure
- Damaged vocal cords
The act of shouting releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline in your body. Chronic yelling and shouting can contribute to high blood pressure. It also strains vocal cords, especially with prolonged bouts of shouting.
Risks to dogs
- Increased stress hormones
- Fear and anxiety
- Hearing damage
Like humans, dogs experience a surge in stress hormones when yelled at. They may become fearful of their owner and anxious about being shouted at again in the future. Dogs have very sensitive hearing and shouting right at a dog could potentially cause hearing damage over time.
Better ways to communicate with your dog
The good news is there are much more effective and humane methods of communicating with dogs. Here are some positive techniques to try instead of shouting:
Use a firm, low voice
Dogs respond better to a firm tone from their owner without shouting. Give commands in a strong, low voice instead.
Reward good behavior with treats, praise, or play. This helps reinforce the behaviors you want to see in your dog.
Ignore bad behaviors
If your dog is doing something undesirable, like jumping or barking for attention, ignore them until they stop. Then reward when they are calm.
Work on obedience training in regular, short sessions. Dogs thrive on consistency.
Address the underlying problem
If your dog is exhibiting chronic bad behaviors, there may be an underlying issue to address, like lack of exercise, training, or stimulation.
The risks of punishment
Beyond just shouting, any punishment-based training also carries risks:
- Increased aggression
- Increased anxiety
- Damaged human-animal bond
- Suppressed warning signs
Harsh punishment like shouting, hitting, or shaking can cause some dogs to become fearful and aggressive. It damages the bond between owner and dog. Punishment may also cause dogs to hide early warning signs that would normally indicate rising aggression, like growling. This means the aggression comes with no warning.
Positive reinforcement training is the safest and most effective approach.
When to avoid shouting
There are some scenarios where shouting at a dog is especially risky:
When a dog is frightened
If your dog is already afraid, due to a noise or something in the environment, shouting will only make matters worse. Comfort a frightened dog instead of yelling.
When a dog is in an excited state
If your dog is worked up, shouting commands will likely go ignored. Get their attention calmly before giving commands.
When a dog is being aggressive
Shouting will not help curb aggression and may escalate it by causing more fear or defensiveness. Stay calm and remove yourself from the situation. Consult a trainer or behaviorist.
The risks of ongoing shouting
The risks of shouting at dogs increase the more it occurs over time. Long-term risks include:
- Permanent distrust or fear of the owner
- Potential bite risk if aggression develops
- Difficulty controlling behavior without shouting
- Irreparable damage to the human-animal bond
Shouting should not become a normal part of interacting with your dog. It erodes the human-animal bond over time. Dogs may become fearful and aggressive or difficult to control without shouting.
Signs your shouting is not working
Here are some signs that shouting at your dog is ineffective or making matters worse:
- No change in your dog’s behavior, or the problems get worse
- Your dog avoids you or acts afraid around you
- Your dog becomes aggressive or growls
- Your dog starts hiding or escapes the room when you yell
These are all indications that shouting is not working, but damaging your bond with your dog. It’s time to take a different approach.
What to do if shouting has become a habit
If shouting has already become a bad habit with your dog, the good news is you can still turn things around:
- Commit to not shouting for a set period of time, like one month.
- Take your dog for training sessions focused on positive reinforcement.
- Channel your energy into exercise and enrichment activities instead.
- Reward your dog for calm, relaxed behaviors.
- Practice coping techniques like breathing exercises if you feel like shouting.
- Consult a trainer or behaviorist for additional support.
With time and consistency, you can rebuild trust and reshape your dog’s behavior using humane, positive methods.
Shouting at your dog is ineffective at best and damaging at worst. It causes stress and fear, worsens behavior issues, and erodes the human-animal bond. With some time and commitment, pet owners can retrain themselves to communicate using more positive reinforcement techniques. This fosters better behaviors in dogs and maintains a healthy relationship built on trust. With a better understanding of canine behavior and communication, dog owners can correct issues and train their pets without resorting to yelling or punishment.