Anyone who owns an pet can attest to how infuriating they can be sometimes.
That’s not to say we ever stop loving them, only that they’re living things, and so are bound to do things they’re not supposed to from time to time.
When such things happen, it can be all too easy to lose your temper and raise your voice at them. New research, however, indicates that yelling at your fur babies can actually traumatize them in the long-term.
A new study, one in which researchers recruited 42 dogs from obedience schools that used reward-based training and 50 from aversion training schools, bore some interesting results.
According to the research paper, each dog was filmed during the first 15 minutes of training sessions, with saliva samples being used to assess stress levels.
Researchers initially took three saliva samples from each dog when they were relaxing at home, so as to gauge the baseline levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Then, following the training, three more were taken.
The team, fronted by biologist Ana Catarina Vieira de Castro of the Universidade do Porto, Portugal, analyzed the dogs’ behaviour during the training as well, observing natural stress indicators such as lip-licking, paw-raising and yelping.
The study found that those dogs who had experienced shouting and lead-pulling were found to be more stressed. By comparison, those who had gentle teachers and no shouting displayed normal cortisol levels, as per Science Alert.
Continuing, not only did the aversion-trained dogs experience higher levels of stress immediately after training, but the effects seemed to last for the long-term.
The same dogs were examined a month later, with researchers devising a test to ascertain the dogs’ happiness.
They trained the dogs to associate a bowl on one side of the room with a sausage snack. If the bowl was on one side of the room it held the treat, but when placed on the other side it remained empty.
Researchers then began moving the bowls around the room to see how quickly the dogs would go looking for a treat. If they did so straight away, it indicated they were hopeful of receiving a treat. Those who moved slower were less so.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the more aversive training a dog had been given, the slower it was to go looking for a treat. Dogs who had been given nothing but positive reinforcement, meanwhile, figured out the bowl’s new location quicker.
The researchers said: “Critically our study points to the fact that the welfare of companion dogs trained with aversive-based methods appears to be at risk.”
We all love dogs – and indeed pets in general – so please remember the next time they do something they shouldn’t that it’s better to react without anger.
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