There are situations, especially concerning your dog’s safety, where punishment may be necessary. For example, if he picks up some rubbish on the street, doesn’t let go of it immediately and has to get a smack to let go, so be it. This is a matter of safety!

But punishment, even when absolutely necessary, has harmful side effects and that’s why it shouldn’t be used as a way of training a dog. I’ll mention just 2 of those effects, but there are many more. They are counter-control and behavioral global suppression.


Counter-control is a way of deflecting punishment, whereby a dog will deceive or aggress his aggressor in order to regain his freedom to act. This happens because punishment inhibits a behavior, short-term, but doesn’t necessarily take away the dog’s desire to perform that behavior.

So how does counter-control work? If you smack your dog because he doesn’t stop barking, he will dodge you and keep out of reach and carry on barking. He will stop barking as you get closer to him, but will soon dodge you again and continue barking. In this scenario deceit comes in the form of keeping out of reach so you can’t smack him and he can bark.

If you threaten your dog and he bites you, he’ll be aggressing his aggressor. Counter-control is at play here, in the sense that not only is he defending himself from a threat, but is also aggressing you in order to deflect punishment.

Behavioral global suppression

It has to do with the inhibition not only of the behavior your dog is punished for, but also the inhibition of other behaviors he may be performing at the time or in sequence to each other.

For example, let’s assume your dog enjoys marking territory and sniffing grass and  other things during a walk. He also happens to be reactive and charge at other dogs. He charges at a dog, you shout at him and use some harsh leash corrections. For the rest of the walk he won’t charge at any other dog, but won’t sniff and mark territory either. In this scenario, charging at another dog was inhibited by the punishment, but so was sniffing and marking, which aren’t even problematic behaviors.

Behavioral global suppression may make your dog inhibit various behaviors instead of inhibiting only the behavior you want to correct.

In short, punishment seems to have an immediate effect, but it doesn’t work either in the long run or as a way of training your dog.