Do you sometimes yell at your cat or dog?

If you have sometimes yelled at your cat or dog I wouldn’t blame you. Perhaps you are very stressed. It is very easy to be stressed nowadays. The world is very stressful! There’s all kinds of things which stress people including, in the UK, scammers. The UK is drowning in scammers. Scammers on the Internet, scammers by text message, scammers by email. You name it there are scammers and it undermines people. The police are hopelessly lost on this type of crime. We are alone.

You become a bit stressed particularly now with the cost of living crisis. And you become short tempered. Your cat or dog gets in the way. Perhaps you trip up over your cat because they are under your feet. Perhaps your dog barks when they should be quiet.

There are a myriad of possibilities. Cats and dogs are individuals. They adapt to the human way of living but sometimes there is a bit of friction because they are different species with different mentalities and behaviours.

The point, though, is that you should never ever yell at your cat or dog. Go online and search for ‘yelling at your dog’ to find an article on the Science Alert website entitled: “Heart-Wrenching Study Shows The Long-Term Effect Yelling Can Have on Your Dog“. That will tell you all about it.

And it is referred to by Nathan Winograd who is probably America’s greatest animal welfare advocate. He is a voice for the voiceless.

Never shout or yell at your cat or dog
Never shout or yell at your cat or dog. Image: MikeB based on images from Pixabay.
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

Nathan Winograd’s neighbour

He sent his neighbour a copy of that article because he noticed that when she took her dog for a walk she barked at other dogs. And when her dog barked she yelled at her. She held her dog down, turned her over and yelled at her.

He wanted to confront her but he noticed that the dog was in good health so he thought he would be more subtle and send her the article.

And it’s an article which told her that yelling at your dog (and the same applies to domestic cats for obvious reasons) is a form of punishment. It is similar to yanking on the leash, scolding, shock collars and restraint. It is a form of punishment which hurts dogs.

A lot of people think of the old adage of short sharp punishment after their dog does something wrong. That is entirely incorrect I am afraid to say.

“Compared to dogs trained by rewards, dogs trained using these aversive methods spent more time showing behaviours associated with pain and distress”. Those are the words of Nathan Winograd in an email to me.

He said that dogs that are yelled at have higher cortisol levels which is evidence of chronic stress. And this happens even if the punishment is relatively mild. The dogs become pessimistic and fearful. The same can be said about domestic cats.

When Nathan Winograd saw this lady walking her dog after he had sent her the letter and her dog barked, she behaved calmly. She got her dog to sit without yanking on the lead, dominating her or yelling at her.

And then about a month later he saw his neighbour walking her dog again. At that time Nathan was walking his puppy. She turned to her dog and the dog quietly sat down. No more barking at other dogs. She gave her dog a treat and called her a good girl. Positive reinforcement. Success.

That old gem: positive reinforcement

This article is about that old issue of positive reinforcement versus negative reinforcement. Negative reinforcement is punishment, positive reinforcement is rewards. Reward training is far more successful than punishment training.

Negative reinforcement can have long term negative effects on your dog’s mental state. Normally people don’t try and formally train their cat but they do train them informally and vice versa. The same rules apply.

A lot of people don’t want their cat to jump up onto the kitchen counter for example. They might train them using negative reinforcement. They might yell at their cat. They shouldn’t. It will have a negative impact upon their relationship.

The signs of stress in dogs are apparent during training classes using negative reinforcement. The signs include yawning and lip-licking. By contrast, positive reinforcement dogs were chilled out with far fewer stress behaviours. There cortisol levels were normal.

I know that it can be hard sometimes to keep one’s cool and sometimes cats and dogs are the targets of people’s anger. They are the recipients of our anger sometimes. But they must never be subjected to that kind of human behaviour. It takes self-discipline.

It takes more than that actually but self-discipline is a major factor and a life which is reasonably in control. The more out of control a person’s life is the more likely they will be stressed themselves and take out their anger and discharge their stress on their dog or cat.

Another study summarized

A 2020 study found that dogs trained using aversive stimuli, which involve punishments for incorrect behavior, show evidence of higher stress levels compared to dogs trained with reward-based methods. The study, published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, observed the behavior of 92 companion dogs from seven different dog training schools in Portugal.

The schools used either aversive methods, which use mainly aversive stimuli, reward methods, which focus on rewarding desired behaviors, or mixed methods, which combine the use of rewards and aversive stimuli. The study found that dogs trained using aversive and mixed methods displayed more stress-related behaviors and showed greater increases in cortisol levels after training than dogs trained with rewards.

The researchers also conducted a cognitive bias test and found that dogs from schools using aversive methods responded more pessimistically to ambiguous situations compared to dogs receiving mixed or reward-based training.

Leave a Comment

follow it link and logo