By Author Laurie Plessala
Please Stop Yelling At Your Dog
I’ve done it. You’ve done it. We’ve all done it at one time or another. Some people, unfortunately, seem to do it multiple times a day, for reasons big and small. So just stop. It doesn’t help. It doesn’t work. It hurts your dog. And it hurts the bond of trust that you want to have with your dog.
This subject is one of those hard things that we sometimes need to talk about even though it makes us uncomfortable. I’ll start with my confessions.
1. Twenty-five years ago, when I was a new dog owner, I yelled at Gunny all the time when he was a puppy. (In his later years I reasoned with him like the life professor that he was.) I yelled when he destroyed something. When he wouldn’t come when called, I would yell, “You get over here right now. I mean it.” When I read this, I find it absolutely inexcusable – and ridiculous– that I thought my actions were going to get Gunny to behave better. I didn’t even THINK about the effect it had on our relationship back then. THAT was nowhere in my consciousness.
To be clear, if your puppy is tearing stuff up, it’s your fault for leaving valuable stuff out. If your dog has poor recall, you need to work on recall. Who the heck wants to come to a crazy woman yelling at you for not coming when you know that you’re in trouble when you get there? Answer: nobody. Including your dog.
2. Two years ago when I got Beau – my first puppy in 25 years – I heard myself yelling again. Less, but I still did it. I yelled “no!” when he grabbed the TV remote control. I yelled “stop!” when he dug paper out of the trash. I said, “bad boy” when he peedon the floor. Every single one of those things was MY FAULT. Why did I give him access to those things? Why hadn’t I let him go outside sooner so he could pee? What the heck was I yelling at my dog for? I needed to be looking in the mirror and yelling at myself for giving him bad or dangerous choices!
Luckily, I snapped out of it, held myself accountable, and started doing a better job at raising him. If I couldn’t watch him like a hawk, he needed to be in his comfy crate. If he was roaming around the house, then anything that shouldn’t be in his mouth needed to be out of his reach. And if he did get something, then I needed to trade it for a toy and chastise myself, not him, for letting non-chewable objects get in my puppy’s mouth.
I see and hear people yelling at their dogs all the time. Sometimes, they are just unhappy with their own life and are taking out their frustration on their dog (and maybe their kids). One of the worst things I see is someone walking with a reactive dog, yelling at their dog when he lunges at mine on the street. “I told you to be nice. Stop that.” Are you kidding me? What good is that going to do? Your dog is afraid already. That’s why he’s lunging. So now you’re going to make him afraid of you, too?
All our dogs destroy or ruin something at some point in time. But yelling at your dog isn’t going to make anything better. It’s likely to make your dog anxious and fearful of you, and more likely – not less – that they’ll tear up your socks to deal with that anxiety. I still mess up sometimes, but I’m more likely to quietly take away something that Beau shouldn’t have and replace it with a toy, and remind myself that I failed him, not vice versa.
Gunny would like to remind you that if you look at the world through your dog’s eyes, they’re incredibly vulnerable. They depend on you for everything. They’re at your mercy. They don’t have the option of getting away from you when you yell. They absorb your angry energy and it only makes them nervous and more likely to do something else you don’t like.
So from one imperfect dog owner to another, I’m asking you to stop yelling at your dog. You’re scary when you do it; they don’t deserve it; and you only do harm to your relationship. It’s on you to come up with a better strategy for dealing with mistakes and problems. I hope that you will.