Today in sad news: A study published this week by molecular biologists in Portugal found that dogs who go through aversion-based training (shock collars, being yelled at) are worse off health-wise than dogs who learn from reward-based training.
The study compared 42 dogs from reward-based training schools and 50 dogs from aversion-based training schools and compared their cortisol levels and stress behaviors to see how each training technique affected them. (Cortisol is a stress hormone, known for controlling your mood, motivation, and fear.) By testing the saliva of the dogs along with video recordings of their behavior during training sessions, the researchers were able to gauge the pups’ stress levels.
Dogs that were tense showed signs on video of licking their lips or yawning. Which, :(. Those in the aversion-based training classes also had higher levels of cortisol than the group of pups in the reward-based classes.
The study is especially important as the use of aversion-based training has historically been seen as a negative but hasn’t previously had any scientific basis to back that up. According to this study, however, “These findings indicate that the use of aversive-based methods compromises the welfare of companion dogs in both the short and long term.”
If you needed any more incentive to treat your doggo with love and affection (even when they’re being a v bad nugget), think about this study. Just like with people, teaching with kindness is often a better route than being a disciplinarian.