Blog Pi-Bo

What’s the Correct Way to Scold Your Dog?

This is probably the most common question we get asked. Here’re some variations of it. 

— how to explain to the dog that I don’t like something 
— how to explain what things not to do
— how to forbid the pup to do a certain thing and so on

To answer it shortly: the correct way would be not to scold the dog at all. The thing is that scolding is not a training tool. Let’s look at some classic situations and see how exactly it works.  

The dog snacked on the garbage bag

The owners left a garbage bag near the door. Furry Susan found it and disassembled it to pieces, leaving the remains of yesterday’s dinner all over the floor in an artistic pattern. Mum found this art piece in the morning and scolded her, because it seems crystal clear that one simply can’t touch the garbage. 

However, it will never be crystal clear to Susan. The ancient doggo law says: what is in free access and not guarded by anyone -  rightfully belongs to the one who found it. Finders keepers, losers weepers! You simply cannot explain to Susan why dad’s socks lying on the floor belong exclusively to dad. She cannot grasp the notion of ‘property’, because a dog's brain cannot handle such abstract ideas: it’s a much earlier version.

So, when scolding a dog for the garbage bag, we basically scold it for being a dog and behaving accordingly. It’s like scolding humans for walking upright or pigeons for pooping on our cars. 

What should one do then in a situation like that? Just put the garbage away. And if you haven’t - just put up with the consequences.

The dog digs on the sofa

Hairy Edmund got too stressed out and decided to release tension by digging on the sofa. The owners forbade him to continue his paleontological activity. Being the good boy that he is, Edmund stopped with the sofa and started digging the carpet. When he was forbidden to do that, he switched to the armchair. When this was forbidden too, he peed himself. 

By forbidding the dog to cope with stress using the instruments it has at its disposal, we are not addressing the actual problem. It’s like taking away tissues from a crying person, they will just have to use their sleeve instead to dry the tears. 

What to do? 

Since it’s not very likely that the dog will solve its own stress problems by making an appointment with a therapist, we ourselves will have to help furry Edmund: let him rest, calm him down, give a relaxing massage or a pupsicle treat.  

Different situations may arise but it all boils down to the same thing - scolding almost never makes things better. But it almost always diminishes the dog’s trust towards family members (who are supposed to be the source of support and protection).  

Things a dog must never be scolded for

There are certain types of dog behavior which must never be scolded: 

1. All variants of species-typical behavior (for example, scavenging and barking)
2. Non-hygienic behavior (even if it seems like the dog is doing it for the sake of vengeance)
3. Self-defense (it is often called aggression). 

Also one shouldn’t scold the dog after the incident.Say, if Susan came to you not after the 1st call, but after the 100th one and you scolded her for that, she will see it this way: ‘the parent called me, I came and got reprimanded. What the fluff is going on?’ 

By the way, when scolding a dog, we are showcasing the way we resolve conflicts in our family which can be either peacefully by making compromises or by screaming and punching stuff. Dogs are just like small kids in this respect. ‘If mum thinks one should scream when having an argument, well, that’s what I will do next time’ - Susan thinks. 
One shouldn’t teach the dog what NOT to do and scold it for doing the wrong thing, but rather teach it what is the right thing to do and how to do it.This is a process, sometimes a slow one, consisting of quite a few stages.However, this is the only way to become an adequate and reliable creature in the eyes of our beloved Susans. But isn’t it what we all want in the end?