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Don't Beat Your Best Friend

29 July 2004

Don't Beat Your Best Friend

Man's best friend is not for beating, says the Royal New Zealand SPCA.

"People who think that dogs are best trained by being physically hit or beaten are just plain wrong," says the Society's Acting Chief Executive, Jenny Prattley.

"Dogs are intelligent creatures but their logic isn't the same as ours. Even if they can recognise a few words here or there, they don't really have a common language with us.

Just imagine if you didn't understand a word of French or Chinese and someone with power over you was giving you orders in one of these languages, getting angry and ultimately hitting you. You wouldn't necessarily connect the punishment with the offence and would be unlikely to learn from it," she says.

As an example of how beating can send the wrong signal to a dog, Mrs Prattley cites dogs being physically chastised when they return home from roaming.

"They are far more likely to connect the beating with their return than with their leaving home much earlier. As a result, next time they go for a wander, they are less likely to come home at all.

"Similarly, if you hit a puppy or shout at it for urinating over your carpet, it probably won't understand what it has done wrong, and it might even urinate more out of panic or fear. It's much more sensible to take the puppy outside frequently, give it a chance to go to the toilet and then heap praise on it for doing the right thing in the right place.

"If you need to reprimand a dog, do it firmly by using a scolding tone of voice. And do it immediately after the event in question. That way there's a good chance your dog will understand that what it has just done is wrong," she adds.

"Most people recognise that it's cruel to use extreme force on an animal, as happened recently when a Nelson man attacked his dog with a hammer. But we tend to be more tolerant of the low-level violence that some people use when trying to train their dogs. Perhaps its time to review our attitudes.

"Not only are people who hit dogs using an unsound training method, they are also behaving cruelly to the animal and, if they have children, sending those children the wrong message about the acceptability of violence, not merely to animals but to other humans," says Mrs Prattley.

The SPCA recommends that dogs and owners with training problems attend obedience classes. These are usually inexpensive, with experts available who can advise on how to correct problem behaviour.


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