To spank or not to spank a dog: Never

While out walking my dog recently I witnessed a man chasing his dog down the street. Ever the “I’ll help, be right there” person that I am, my random act of kindness was quickly thwarted by a slap.

The dog apparently got loose while on a walk and his owner was chasing after him. As he scooped the little guy up (a shih tzu mix perhaps), he smacked the dog on the butt and repeatedly yelled over and over “No! No! No!” and jerked the dog close to him.

I yelled over “hey” and before a second word could float his way, he picked his dog up and quickly walked off, perhaps caught in the act or just not wanting to deal with an obviously stunned me.

To spank or not to spank a dog became a hot discussion on my Facebook page.  No matter how upset you are or what the dog did to frustrate you, hitting/spanking/slapping a dog is never appropriate. Never. Yanking the dog back to you demonstrates how amazingly powerful and scary you are, but teaches a dog fear.

Putting your hand(s) on a dog as a form of punishment is not only wrong but as harmful to the relationship you want with your dog. Counterproductive in fact.

In her book, It’s Me or the Dog famed positive reinforcement trainer and star of her own dog behavior show on Animal Planet, Victoria Stilwell, writes, “When you hit a dog, you teach him to fear you, break his trust, and you weaken his confidence. Insecure dogs are the one who are more likely to lash out in an aggressive display.”

Anyone who has seen the show, “It’s Me or the Dog” on Animal Planet knows that all of the techniques Victoria Stilwell uses to teach and change even the most difficult of dog cases are diverse and none of them involves spanking, hitting, or forcing making him fearful/losing his will.

According to, approximately 1,000 Americans seek emergent care for a dog bite DAILY. That isn’t to say all dogs who bite have been hit or spanked or abused. The statistics are, however, worth pondering in the grand scheme of things.

Hitting a dog to teach him not to growl at a child, not to chew a shoe, not to bark, or because you are frustrated is harmful and just plain not nice. There are ways to teach a dog, to correct a behavior, and to get your dog to “listen.” My pooch learned “ah ah” and I thanked Victoria in person for this fun, positive, and “ohhh what the heck was that” technique when I say it to my dog.

Perhaps you’ve learned that spanking is okay, a parent or loved one reinforced it, you grew up with it. Well when you know better, you do better. Two wrongs don’t make a right, truly.

A more assertive me would have crossed the street in speed walk style with my pooch and educated said dog slapper to his face, unabashedly, unapologetic, but informative. A stunned me watched him scurry away. A stunned me thought “well people attack others who confront them, even if to educate.”

Dogs are bigger spirits than we as humans. Watch an abused dog as he or she is rescued from a kennel; I’ve lost count to the number of dogs I’ve seen wag. They trust us, believe in us, and give us second chances. Give them a break, don’t hit, don’t slap. Teach, strengthen the bond, and simply love.


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  1. yup, thanks for this…

    dogs are eager to please us and do not understand spanking, slapping, hitting other than becoming afraid of you for lashing out at them.

    I housetrained my cici thru positive means/treats. her former owner put her nose in it and hit her with newspaper which un potty trained her and made her afraid. she is very sensitive. and a few months after I rescued her from this guy, one day I playfully lightly touched her with a newspaper, not thinking anything, and she flinched and got really scared, the scar was there from before. it took months of lovin care and she trusts me not to hurt her and also to take care of her. dogs know and respond to love.

    1. Thanks for chiming in, CeliaSue. I never ever ever understand people who put their dog’s nose in poop. Good for you and your positive methods.

  2. I would never hit a dog or cat or any animal for that matter. As a parent, I don’t spank my child either. A firm “no” a few times, and if the behavior persists, walking away or turning your back on your pet often works.

  3. I feel ashamed and ran to my dog and cried and apologized to him. I used to be spanked, slapped, the whole bit. This is the first time I’ve owned a dog (had cats all of my life) and I’ve trained him well, but recently I’ve spanked him and put his nose to poop on the carpet. He pooped on the floor within two minutes of us coming from a walk. So I was angry.. I feel so terrible and ashamed. Thank you for this read. The funny thing is, I do positive reinforcement but I didn’t even think twice after the spank. Now I will forever. Thank you again. You’ve help discipline me and I will work on being a better fur mommy.

    1. That means a lot to me to read this. One thing I will say that putting a dog’s nose near or in the poop to smell it does nothing to teach the dog that he did wrong. That is actually a falsehood that seems to be handed down by generations who didn’t know better. You are your dog’s leader and he looks to you as a loving parent and to teach him positively. Glad this helped!

  4. Great article, and so true – thanks! Howeve. I’d like to point out something you may not be aware of. You cited a reference to the dogsbite website regarding statistics on dog bite incidents. This website is not any kind of credible authority on dog bites at all; in fact it was created by a Web developer to disseminate false and inflammatory information about pit bull type dogs for the purpose of instituting BSL all over the country. The website’s creator, Colleen Lynn, claims to have been “attacked” by a pit bull type dog. The facts of the incident are easily available and do not support her claims, yet every municipality and detractors of these dogs never fail to cite to the statistics on this site which are complied from Web crawlers searching news reports of dog bites that are then attributed to “pit bulls,” whether or not the dog’s breed was mentioned in the original article. This is not a scientific nor accurate method of compiling or analyzing information, nor does Ms. Lynn have any background, experience, or education in the area of dog behavior, training, genetics, psychology, or even animals in general. In short, it takes away from the credibility of a very important message you’re trying to send, in addition to directing readers to a website where they will be seeing false and inflammatory information and thus perpetuating the myths and stereotypes of these already unfairly maligned and targeted dogs. Far better and more accurate resources for information regarding dogs can be found at the websites of the CDC, the AVMA, and the USDA, for starters. Many veterinary teaching colleges at top universities have excellent resources and information, as well. That being said, thank you for your well-written and very timely article.

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