Dear Labby: Does Yelling at your Dog Work?
Our neighbors just got a new dog, not a puppy, but an adolescent. Judging by how often they YELL and SCREAM at the dog, I would guess he’s a teenager full of hormones and bad behavior.
I want to tell them that yelling doesn’t really help and may harm their relationship with the pup, but I’m not sure how to come out and say it without offending our neighbors. Do you have any advice?
We all know friends or family members who yell at their dogs. They yell at them to call them away from danger or trouble, they yell to get them to stop doing an unwanted behavior or they yell at them to follow a command or they yell, just to yell. They probably think it works, but you are right, it just doesn’t.
But knowing that and acting on it are two very different things.
Yelling accomplishes nothing. It may stop the behavior momentarily, but the dog will return to it, because they didn’t learn anything from the yelling. Yelling may actually increase their excitement…remember they don’t understand English, they just see you talking more loudly and excitedly…so they get excited too.
Sometimes it’s hard not to yell – if your dog has his head in the trash, or is about to run into the road – these are times you would raise your voice. But if yelling is the mode of communication you use most often, it loses any impact it might have in those situations where it might be effective.
We are believers in using positive training methods to shape the behavior of your dog. Yelling isn’t positive…I mean really, did you like being yelled at by your parents? Of course not. Shaping wanted behavior as well as UNWANTED behavior through positive reinforcement and praise is much more effective.
You asked about advice – how to gently inform your neighbor about the ineffectiveness of yelling both for the dog and your eardrums. That’s a tough one – what we normally do when faced with a situation of a friend or family member who is using techniques we know don’t work (or feeding a dog food we know is crap) is approach with as much diplomacy as possible because you don’t want to put them off, you want to shape their behavior 😉
If it’s a training related matter – I usually tell them about the wonderful dog trainer that we have, how I used to have to yell at Jack all the time and how our trainer taught us better training methods to get his attention. Yes, I use the exact behavior they are doing as an example of a problem we had that was solved with a few visits with a good dog trainer. That way, they don’t take offense, because I am admitting to the bad behavior myself and I don’t even mention them at all. Does this work, yes it actually does – not all the time, but enough to be useful. Typically, people know that what they are doing isn’t working and are looking for solutions – so offer one.
If any Dear Labby readers have additional suggestions, we welcome them in the comments.