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The following is an excerpt from the book Pup Parenting
by Lynn Lott, Jane Nelsen and Therry Jay
Published by Rodale; March 2006;$14.95US/$19.95CAN; 1-59486-081-5
Copyright © 2006 Lynn Lott, Jane Nelsen and Therry Jay

Punishment Is Not the Answer

Some people mistakenly think that kind and firm solutions reward their dogs for bad behavior and that the only way a dog can learn is to suffer. More often than not, the "solution" for the dog's misbehavior is really misplaced anger or a desire to hurt the dog for hurting you. That's what happened with Francie, who left her new puppy Cody, an American Eskimo dog (a very attached breed who needs attention), home alone for long hours while she went to work. Her little dog was bored and teething, so he entertained himself by chewing on Francie's shoes. Little did he know that his entertainment would make his mom so angry. When Francie walked in and saw one of her $200 shoes in Cody's mouth, she saw red. She pulled the shoe away from him and hit him with it over and over, yelling, "No, no, no! Bad dog, bad dog!" Cody slunk away with his tail between his legs and hid under a chair. Francie grabbed him and threw him outside saying, "You think about what a bad boy you've been." Right!

If Francie thought her methods would stop Cody from chewing on her shoes because she "taught him a lesson," she was soon disabused of the notion when, the next day, he chewed another pair of her best shoes. No amount of yelling and hitting seemed to get through to the little pup.

The Pup Parenting Plan was very simple for Francie.

1 . The behavior that bothers me: Chewed up shoes.

2. Why change is needed: Shoes are expensive and I can't afford to keep replacing them.

3. The mistake I am making: Every one of them. I am reactive, disrespectful, punitive, and I talk too much. When she stepped back and looked at the problem objectively, she knew that chewing a shoe is not bad behavior. It is normal dog behavior. The faulty behavior is leaving the shoe in the dog's reach in the first place. Francie could see that it does not make sense to punish a dog for normal dog behavior, nor does it make sense to assume a dog will learn from punishment. Have you noticed that most pooch parents initially respond just the way Francie did? They punish their dogs for chewing the shoe instead of simply removing their shoes from the dog's path.

4. A list of possible solutions: I don't have to brainstorm for a list of solutions. It's obvious that I must keep my shoes out of sight and provide appropriate chew toys. Instead of brainstorming, she acted:

  • She went to the store and found a shoe rack that hung on the back of her closet door and put all of her shoes in the rack.
  • She also bought a lot of soft stuffed animals at the secondhand store and set them out for Cody to chew. Each animal cost 50 cents -- a bargain compared to her shoes. Francie tried rawhide strips, but Cody never liked chewing on them. He preferred something soft, like the shoes, so the stuffed animals were a great substitute and a much better solution than releasing all one's anger at a dog.

5. Choose a solution and follow through: Having a well-thought-out plan made it easy for Francie to follow through. She kept her shoes out of Cody's sight, and she never lost another shoe.

Try to imagine what your dog is thinking while being swatted with the shoe. Do you think he is thinking, "Thank you for caring about me so much that you want to hurt me to teach me right from wrong"? It is more likely that your dog is hurt and totally confused -- but amazingly, still loves you.

Francie didn't feel good about hitting Cody and yelling at him. She shook her head at how much she and Cody had suffered because she didn't take the time to think the problem through. She liked herself a lot better when she was less angry and had a respectful plan. Kind and firm proactive pooch parenting was much more her style.

If Cody could talk, what would he say? "I loved the game that Francie used to play with me. I would chew her shoe, she would give me lots of attention, I got to go outside and play in the yard, and when I came back in, she had already left another shoe for me to chew. Oh well, now I have my own special toys to play with."

Reprinted from: Pup Parenting: A Guide to Raising a Happy, Well-Trained Dog by Lynn Lott, Jane Nelsen, and Therry Jay © 2006 Rodale Inc. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098. Available wherever books are sold or directly from the publisher by calling (800) 848-4735 or visit their website at