Discipline or Punishment

Understand the Difference!

This is a definite area that families can have trouble coping with, mainly because humans have trouble defining the difference between using Discipline and Punishment.

Just consider how our human community has difficulty determining how parents should enforce behaviour with a child. There are constant debates as to whether it is appropriate to give a child a smack and even as to what is acceptable when there is a need to restrain a child in a school environment.

With dogs (as with our human kids) it is very important to understand the difference between Discipline and Punishment. We need to avoid creating confusion between the human and the dog otherwise the bond can be damaged. However if we do nothing and try to avoid any ‘bad’ situations then the dog is unable to see the expected limits then any bad behaviour will continue.

Consider: these two words appear similar, but actually have very different meanings!


This is when you have set clear boundaries for behaviour. If the dog breaks the boundary then the Authority Figure (YOU) will step in and block this behaviour until the dog stops and withdraws from the action. If the dog then breaks the boundary again the Authority Figure once again steps in to block the behaviour and again will finish when the dogs stops and withdraws from the action. The dog starts to see a pattern, hence will diminish this behaviour.

Example: Dog barks – you growl using enough energy for the dog to stop barking – the second the dog is quiet you then drop your energy and wait to see what his next choice is…. Hopefully he will stop and walk away.


Is when we involve physical or mental restraints when your dog breaks the rules and the Authority Figure steps in to block this behaviour. Sounds similar, however the situation falls into a category of Punishment as/when the restraints continue even when the dog attempts to withdraw from the action.

Example: Dog Barks – you growl or perhaps even hit the dog he moves away and becomes quiet however you keep yelling and threatening. The dog cannot see what is wrong, hence dog becomes confused.

Don’t be afraid to try - Learn to use discipline effectively.

Many families can be scared of enforcing discipline. (Remember we are talking about discipline and not punishment). They don’t want to hurt the dog physically or mentally. But if we are honest with ourselves, most people are afraid that the animal will become upset and no longer love them. Well here is some good news – Your dog will be likely to love you whether you discipline him or not. The love he shows is a dog love, which is different to a human love. After all, human love is varied and fickle whereas animals show love in an uncomplicated and honest fashion.

Contact Alfoxton Dog Centre to find ouT more

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