Adverse Effects of Punisment Training of Pets

The following is based on and extracted from a position statement by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB.)

Every pet owner wants to have a happy, well-behaved pet that they can love. Spending time training your pet correctly is necessary to accomplish this.  Some forms of training are through forms of punishment to stop unwanted behaviors. Punishment is anything that should decrease the likelihood a behavior will occur again. There are several difficulties with punishment training of pets.  At Birdneck Animal Hospital, of Virginia Beach, we recommend positive reinforcement training as much as possible.

Punishment training must be timed correctly and be consistent. For the pet to understand what it is doing wrong, the punishment must occur while the behavior is occurring or within one second of the behavior. The punishment needs to happen every time the undesired behavior occurs.  Inconsistent discipline will actually reinforce the behavior. The times the unwanted behavior occurs without the negative reinforcement is positive reinforcement for the behavior. The pet begins to look forward to the times it can do the behavior without being punished.

The punishment must be strong enough to stop the behavior every time without causing physical injury or fear.  Many types of negative reinforcement, such as choke chains and shock collars, can cause bodily harm. Damage to the trachea, nerves of the neck and face, and burns of the skin can occur.  Some pets become extremely fearful secondary to punishment training. Other unwanted behaviors, including aggression, may occur because of this.  Other behaviors, such as nervous reactions that can be a warning sign of potential aggression, may be suppressed; thereby creating a pet that may bite without warning.

Punishment can lead to bad associations between the pet, its owner, and its environment. Why should a pet be excited to come running to a person or perform a specific behavior that is associated with punishment?  Owners may also develop a negative association toward their pet.  If a person is often angry at their pet and needing to yell or otherwise use punishment training, the person may be less likely to enjoy the presence of the pet.

Lastly, punishment does not teach more appropriate behaviors. Undesirable behavior occurs due to some positive reinforcement, either unknowingly by the owner or by some other type of reward. It is essential for the owner to figure out what the positive reinforcement is, remove it, and reinforce more appropriate behavior.  A behavioral consultation with Dr. Johnson, at Birdneck Animal Hospital, can often get an owner on the correct path to appropriate training.  Getting with a professional trainer that has experience with positive reinforcement training can also be very helpful.


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Feedback from our clients

  • "Words can not begin to express our gratitude for the care you had given Hunter over the years. When his time came, he watched for you to come through the door and his tail showed his affection towards you. That was most comforting having you there. Thank you.""
  • ""Thank you so much for taking care of Maggie over the years. Y'all are the best and Dr. Johnson, you are the best vet in the world! God bless you all.""
    ~ J.D.
  • ""Your care for my beloved Mattie these last 10n years made her life, and mine much better….God bless each of you for all you did for us and I'm sure for all your other two and four legged patients.""
  • ""Thank you for saving my life." ~T.C."
  • ""I can not express how grateful I am for you and your staff… I appreciate everything you did in Beckham's treatment. He was so lucky to have such a wonderful doctor on his side. Thank you for all you do for the benefit of all our beloved pets.""
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  • ""Thank you for the great care you took of Taco and the rest of our family. He is doing great now! He is enjoying running and playing with all four legs again.""
  • ""People who avail themselves of your services at the clinic certainly are blessed to have such a caring staff....bless you and your devoted staff.""
  • ""A sincere thank you for taking such good care of Dulce. We are so thrilled that she is back to her normal self. You gave her the support and care she needed in her darkest hours and kept us confident in her recovery.""
  • ""Just to say how much we appreciate all of you. You all are wonderful people. We feel blessed to have our beloved furry children in your care when they need it. Your professional knowledge and your acts of kindness have a beautiful act all it's own. You are a great vet, compassionate and everything good all in one. You are in our daily prayers.""
  • ""Thank you and all of your staff for the excellent care you gave to my wonderful Abbey, who was so much a part of the family. Thank you for all the advice and support you gave to me these last few months. I don't know how I would have gotten through this without your constant support. I will, and I have highly recommended you to family and friends, as I feel you are the best!""
  • ""Thank you for taking care of my kitty, Slingshot. He is feeling better and better. My Paw-Paw said that you took extra special care of him and I really appreciate it. So, thank you again for taking care of my cat.""
    ~T.B. (age 6)
  • ""Dr. Johnson, I don't know why you decided to move here from your home in New Jersey, but I absolutely believe it was so you could help me and Mickey. I know coming to someone's home is not what a typical veterinarian would do, but you are obviously an extraordinary man in a world filled with ordinary men….On top of that, your sensitive and wonderful handwritten note arrived and touched my heart…You are one of those quiet, unheralded champions who make life easier for everyone you touch.""
  • ""Thank you so much for taking care of Lola when she had her reaction, and your office was already closed. I know you took time away from yourself and your family and I really appreciate it.""
  • ""Thank you for giving me more time with my best friend. We are all so grateful.""
  • ""Thank you for all of your support for Maxine during her illness. All was very much appreciated and will always be remembered. I have related to all my friends of what a great doctor and staff at Birdneck Animal Hospital.""
  • ""Thank you for taking such good care of me over the last 4 years. I am doing well and both legs and feet feel great. You sis an awesome job on me Dr. Johnson, and I'm gonna have a great year this year and I hope to see you only for my check up. You guys are the best!""
  • "We can't thank you enough for the wonderful and loving care you gave to"Budkus" while he was in your care. He was so little and so sick and we were so scared for him. Each and every one of the staff members made us feel like we had the only dog in the world. Like nothing else mattered except getting "Budkus" well again. Our deepest gratitude to all of you for the excellent care and attention we received, for your encouragement, comfort, and understanding, and most importantly for saving his life! Thank you so much.""
    ~ J.,B.,C.