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  • Writer's pictureStacey Bell

The Pitfalls of Punishment in Home Alone Training for Dogs

Helping your dog to feel comfortable and secure when left home alone is crucial for their well-being and your peace of mind as their pet parent. However, when it comes to home alone training, it is important to consider the potential consequences of using punishment as a part of your training method. 

Let’s explore the pitfalls of punishment in home alone training for your dog and discuss alternative approaches that prioritize building a sense of security through gentle, rewards-based methods.

Home alone training involves gradually acclimating your dog to being alone for increasing periods of time (gradual exposure) while they are below the threshold of experiencing stress, anxiety, fear, or frustration. The goal is to help your dog feel non-anxious and comfortable when you are away.

The Downside of Punishment:

Using punishment in home alone training or other areas of interacting with your dog has adverse effects and hinders their progress. Here are some reasons why punishment is not recommended:

1. Increased Anxiety and Fear: Punishment during home alone training can amplify stress, anxiety, fear, and frustration in dogs. It can create negative associations with being alone and worsen separation-related behaviors, making the training process more challenging.

2. Aggravated Stress Levels: Dogs subjected to punishment experience heightened stress levels, which can lead to a range of physical and behavioral problems. Stress can compromise their overall well-being and make it more difficult for them to learn and adapt.

3. Lack of Clarity and Understanding: Punishment-based methods often fail to provide clear guidance on what behavior is desired. Dogs may associate punishment with your return or unrelated actions, making it difficult for them to understand the intended message and hindering their progress in learning appropriate behavior.

4. Damaged Trust and Bond: Punishment erodes trust and can damage the bond between you and your  dog. Dogs may become fearful or hesitant to engage in training, leading to a breakdown in communication and a strained relationship.

A Better Approach:

Rewards-based methods offer a more effective and humane approach to home alone training. Here's why a rewards-based approach is beneficial:

1. Encourages Positive Associations: Gradual exposure creates positive or neutral associations with being alone by removing negative experiences whether that is anxiety, fear, frustration, and / or stress and replacing it with experiences where the dog is comfortable with the absence. 

2. Reinforces Desired Behavior: Rewards-based methods focus on rewarding desired behavior. Dogs learn what behaviors are expected of them, allowing for a clearer understanding and more effective training outcomes.

3. Strengthens the Human-Canine Bond: Rewards-based training strengthens the bond between you and your dog. It fosters trust, cooperation, and a sense of security, leading to a more harmonious and fulfilling relationship.

4. Promotes Emotional Well-being: Rewards-based training promotes emotional well-being in dogs. By reducing stress, anxiety, and fear, dogs are more likely to develop resilience, adaptability, and a positive outlook on being home alone.


When it comes to home alone training for dogs, punishment-based methods have detrimental effects on their well-being, training progress, and the bond they share with you, their pet parent. Rewards-based training offers a more compassionate and effective alternative, emphasizing rewards, positive associations, and clear communication.

By focusing on building trust, reinforcing desired behaviors, and creating positive experiences, we can help our dogs feel secure and comfortable when left home alone. Let's prioritize their emotional well-being and train them with kindness, patience, and positive reinforcement to foster a positive home alone experience for both dogs and their loving owners.

Reading list and References:

Todd June 2023: What Are Reward-Based Training Methods 

Westlund February 2023 20 Problems with Punishment in Animal Training

Fernandez et al., 2017. Do aversive-based training methods actually compromise dog welfare?: A literature review

Friedman, 2008. What’s wrong with this picture: effectiveness is not enough.

Schilder & van der Borg, 2004. Training dogs with help of the shock collar: short and long term behavioural effects.

VIeira de Castro et al., 2020. Does training method matter? Evidence for the negative impact of aversive-based methods on companion dog welfare

Seligman 1968: Chronic Fear Produced by Unpredictable Electric Shock.

Miller 1960. Learning resistance to pain and fear: Effects of overlearning, exposure, and rewarded exposure in context.

Maier & Seligman 2017. Learned Helplessness at Fifty: insights from Neuroscience.

Murrey 2007. The Effects of Combining Positive and Negative Reinforcement during Training.

Rescorla 1968. Probability of shock in the presence and absence of cs in fear conditioning

Van der Kolk et al., 1985. Inescapable shock, neurotransmitters, and addiction to trauma: Toward a psychobiology of post traumatic stress

Hiby et al., 2004. Dog training methods: Their use, effectiveness and interaction with behaviour and welfare.

Sidman, 1989. Coercion and its fallout.

Casey, R.A., Naj-Oleari, M., Campbell, S. et al. Dogs are more pessimistic if their owners use two or more aversive training methods. Sci Rep 11, 19023 (2021). 

Todd, Z. (2018). Barriers to the adoption of humane dog training methods. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 25, 28-34.

Vieira de Castro, A. C., Barrett, J., de Sousa, L., & Olsson, I. A. S. (2019). Carrots versus sticks: The relationship between training methods and dog-owner attachment. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 219, 104831.

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