Even calm and cuddly dogs can get the zoomies and suddenly start acting all hyper and destructive. In such situations, keeping your temper under control and managing the situation right can be more than challenging. Therefore, many owners wonder what will happen if they hit their dogs.
Will my dog forgive me for hitting him? While hitting your dog is never a good idea, it is comforting to know that your dog will forget and forgive as long as the hitting is a one-time incident. However, if hitting becomes a pattern, your dog will likely develop serious emotional damage and behavioral problems.
This article will talk about how dogs process feelings, whether they are capable of forgiveness, and how to earn your dog’s trust back after a hitting incident. Finally, we will talk about some simple yet efficient ways of disciplining your dog without being violent.
THE DOG’S EMOTIONS IN A NUTSHELL
To properly answer the main question about forgiveness, first, we need to talk about dog feelings in general. As people, we tend to humanize our pets in all aspects, including how they perceive and process emotions.
However, this is not true. The average dog’s cognitive abilities are much lower than the human’s, meaning dogs are not capable of feeling complex emotions. According to a study, dogs have the same emotional intelligence as a two-year-old baby. Therefore, dogs can only go through simple emotions like love, happiness, fear, and distress.
ARE DOGS CAPABLE OF FORGIVING?
Yes, to put it bluntly, dogs do forgive. However, not in the true sense of the word, as dogs cannot process guilt and forgiveness. Instead, dogs let go, and even if you did something bad (yelled, scolded, or even hit) after several displays of affection, the dog simply moves on as if nothing ever happened.
This does not mean that dogs forget. Based on a groundbreaking study, dogs can travel back in time and recall certain episodes from the past, especially if they happened more than once. While the dog may not remember exactly how the event occurred, it can definitely recall how it felt and link the bad emotions with something going on at the moment.
DO DOGS FORGIVE WHEN YOU HIT THEM?
Yes, although not in the exact concept of the word forgive, but yes – dogs let go of bad things and experiences and focus on positivity. They are simple, and they are built not to hold grudges and resentments.
However, this is not an excuse for you to start manifesting your anger physically every time the dog does something bad. First of all, hitting your dog is cruel and must never be practiced. Second, it is inefficient as it does not solve the immediate problem.
Third, violence can have long-term effects on your dog and make it aggressive or fearful. Finally, if your dog starts feeling afraid of you and the trust is broken, rebuilding a new relationship can be a hard and lengthy process.
HOW DO I APOLOGIZE TO MY DOG FOR HITTING HIM?
The best way of apologizing to your dog is correcting your behavior. Of course, you can be extra attentive to your dog’s needs after the hitting incident – spend more time together, play interactive games, bake its favorite treats, and give long and affectionate belly rubs. However, staying in control of your anger and avoiding future incidents is the best way of apologizing and showing your dog you feel sorry about what you did.
HOW DO I GAIN MY DOG’S TRUST BACK?
Apologizing works for one-time incidents. However, things are quite complicated if the hitting becomes a habit and your dog loses trust in you. In such cases, you have two options – acknowledge you are not ready to be a dog parent and find your pup a loving and understanding home or atone for your actions and work hard to gain your dog’s trust back.
Here are some tips on how to gain your dog’s trust:
- Tip number 1: Be patient – try spending as much time as possible with your dog without forcing any interactions. Just wait for your dog to approach, and once it does, reward it with a tasty treat. Let your dog determine the bonding pace, and do not force anything.
- Tip number 2: Play together – once your pup feels more comfortable around you, it is time to engage in interactive games. Invest in several puzzle toys or, depending on your dog’s preferences, go hiking or swimming. Every dog is different and responds differently. As a dog parent, you know what your dog likes best.
- Tip number 3: Hand-feed – most dogs are food-driven, meaning mealtime can be an excellent way of working on your bond. Get your dog’s favorite food flavor and deliver the kibbles by hand.
- Tip number 4: Basic obedience training – this is a relatively advanced step and should be initiated once the previous tips are mastered. Basic obedience is critical for your dog’s behavior and will prevent you from experiencing emotional outbursts in the future. In the beginning, you need to take things slow and start with short training sessions (no more than 15 minutes per day).
WILL MY DOG REMEMBER IF I ACCIDENTALLY HURT HIM?
If you accidentally hurt your dog (hit, step, or had an object fall on him), do not beat yourself about it – it was an accident. And chances are your dog will not remember it. As we discussed in the sections above, dogs have relatively short-term memories. Unless certain behaviors are part of a pattern, they will have trouble recalling them.
Namely, if you purposely hit your dog because you think that is the right disciplining way, then yes, your dog will remember that (which does not necessarily mean it will not forgive it). However, if you accidentally hurt your dog and then immediately apologize (give treats or cuddles), your dog will forget about what happened by the time the treats/cuddles are finished.
HOW CAN I PUNISH MY DOG WITHOUT HITTING?
Hitting is never a good idea – not only does it not solve the current issue, but it can also have negative long-term effects and put your dog at risk of developing deep behavioral issues. So, instead of resorting to violence and anger, try some of the below-explained tactics.
Tactic number 1: Practice time-outs
Time-outs are one of the best ways of preventing physical punishment while still letting your dog know it did something wrong. All you need to do is just put your dog in its crate or isolate it in a separate room. If this is not possible, simply ignoring it will do the trick.
Dogs are social animals and thrive on constant love, affection, and attention. Once deprived of these essentials, the dog will feel punished. Plus, the time out is great for you, as it will give you a break from the dog and simply let you steam off.
Tactic number 2: Focus redirections
Redirecting your dog’s focus is another efficient disciplining method. However, in most cases, you will probably need to count to ten before starting to redirect. Namely, if you walked in the room and caught your dog chewing on the pillow, get one of its favorite chewing toys and offer it as a substitute.
If your dog responds positively and starts chewing on the toy, you can give a reward to let it know its decision was the right one. On the other hand, if your dog disregards the offered toy and continues to chew on the pillow, practice the above-explained time out.
Tactic number 3: Use nothing but your voice
When trying to discipline or correct your dog, using voice is all you need. Dogs are very intuitive when it comes to sensing emotions and will pick up on how you feel just by looking at you, so there is no need for additional anger expressions.
In fact, you do not even have to be vocal – the changes in your facial expressions, body posture, and smell, will let the dog know you are frustrated. However, you can use voice (not yell, just be assertive) to let your dog know its actions are not acceptable.
Tactic number 4: Timing is of the essence
Wrong timing is one of the main things that makes disciplining your dog hard, especially if you have long working hours and spend most of the time out. Suppose your dog chewed on the sofa or pooped under the kitchen table hours ago. You come back home and immediately feel infuriated and start scolding your dog.
This seems like a logical course of action, but it is not – the dog has no idea why you are mad (the chewing/pooping incident happened hours ago). Therefore, unless you manage to catch the dog in the act, it is best to let it go and wait for future disciplining moments.
Tactic number 5: Consistency is critical too
Another thing you need to pay attention to is consistency. There is no sense in scolding your dog something today because you are in a bad mood because of something else, and then let the same thing go as you are not feeling the same way as before.
For example, if your dog steals shoes you did not like anyway, chances are you will let it go, but if it destroys a pair you bought recently, you will react. This is sending your dog mixed messages. You need to be consistent and let your dog know playing with shoes is bad in general, regardless of how you feel about the particular pair.
Tactic number 6: The gentle scruff-shake
We say the gentle scruff-shake as it is not supposed to hurt the dog – only to let it know it is doing something bad and needs to stop. We already talked about the importance of timing, so as a quick reminder, only practice the gentle scruff-shake if you catch your dog in the mischievous act.
If you are wondering what the scruff-shake means, here is a short explanation. All you need to do is hold the neck fur under the ear and perform a brisk and brief shake. Once again, there is no need to be rough, only consistent.
SUMMING UP: WILL MY DOG FORGIVE ME FOR HITTING HIM
All in all, it is safe to say that your dog will forgive you for hitting him as long as you do not make the hitting a habit. Dogs are simple creatures and thrive on love and affection. A simple time-out will do more disciplining than hitting. Plus, it has no long-term side effects.
We understand that dealing with a mischievous pup can be overwhelming, especially if not properly trained. Since investing time and effort in training is much easier than dealing with an untrained dog and anger issues, we strongly suggest getting a canine trainer to help you modify your dog’s behavior before issues arise.