Is it harmful to spank your dog?

Wondering if spanking your dog can be harmful in some way? Perhaps you’ve already spanked your dog in an effort to housetrain it, or, you spanked the dog because it gnawed on some furniture or took a nip at you, or stole some food off the countertop.

“Yes spanking is harmful — It makes for the association that hands are not always kind and trustworthy,” says Mary Remer, certified pet dog trainer, breeder and licensed AKC judge, having trained more than 20,000 dogs in her 30-year career.

“Furthermore, in my experience, it’s extremely rare for people to spank a puppy (i.e., give a correction), within an appropriate time frame, which you must do to make a direct association for the puppy or dog between the behavior and the punishment.

“Usually, the dog makes a different association than what the human intends. Dogs are inherently good. They do not go out of their way to do something ‘wrong.’”

If you’ve ever watched Animal Planet’s “Me or the Dog,” you’ll know that dog trainer Victoria Stilwell teaches the most unruly of dogs to behave using various techniques  —  and none of them spanking or hitting.

The techniques work after a relatively short time, sometimes after just one training session.

Spanking a dog can make the animal skittish around people or other dogs. To establish pack order in the household, you do not have to hit your pet.

Watch a few episodes of “Me or the Dog” or a similar program to learn how pack order can be established without so much as raising an angry hand to a dog.

For instance, to get a dog to stop barking when you have guests over, every time the dog barks, remove it from the room.

It won’t be long before the animal makes the connection: If I bark, I’ll be removed from all this activity; I’d better be quiet from now on.

This is a classic technique to stop barking. Spanking the dog simply will not work, and can also result in an aggressive dog.

In fact, if you hit your dog, the animal may instinctively take a good chunk out of your leg, no matter how many steaks you’ve been feeding it.

Mary Remer is founder of What a Good Dog, a dog training and behavioral facility.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.