Spray Bottles Have No Place in Animal Training
Spraying a dog with water to curb unwanted behavior has been used for decades. Cats are lumped into this punishment-based technique too; they’re often sprayed for scratching furniture or climbing on countertops. Dog spraying is employed by owners for any behavior they find inappropriate. But does spraying your dog with water work?
Does dog spraying work? Maybe temporarily, but it’s a new day. We now know that training your dog with negative techniques such as dog spraying can do a lot of harm. Fortunately, we have newer and very effective ways to discourage undesirable animal behavior, so throw away that spray bottle!
Does Spraying a Dog or Cat With Water Work?
Nope, training your dog by spraying it with water does not work. When working with dog training clients, trainers have witnessed some who spray their puppies for mouthing, yet their arms are covered in scratches. Spraying the dog with water was not helping. One client sprayed her cats whenever they clawed her furniture. She had two massive water bottles in each room to deter this behavior, and she squirted them numerous times during our 1-hour consultation. Unfortunately, every piece of her cloth furniture was scratched down to the foam with shredded cloth strings dangling. So, does cat or dog spraying work? Clearly, it does not.
Why Doesn’t Spraying a Dog with Water Work?
Punishment does not teach your dog (or cat) what to do instead of scratch furniture, bark, dig, etc. Squirting your dog with a water bottle may stop the behavior temporarily. However, this punishment teaches your dog to practice the undesired behavior when you and the water bottle are not present. Think about it this way: When you receive a speeding ticket, it’s effective punishment, but only temporarily. After a few days, you resume your lead foot behavior, but remember to slow down when approaching the area in which you were ticketed. When police are no longer present, you begin speeding through the area again.
In order to effectively change your pet’s behavior, the undesired behavior should stop permanently—even when you and the water bottle are not present. Plus, some dogs love being sprayed, and it becomes a game for some cats.
Smarter Ways to Train Your Dog
Since punishment is temporary, it’s vital to teach your dog to perform an incompatible behavior. Instead of spraying your dog with water, teach your dog what to do instead of the undesired behavior.
- If your dog barks, reward him for quiet behavior.
- Redirect your digging dog to an approved digging area in your yard.
- Teach your cat to claw scratching posts instead of furniture (by the way, the cat client did not have a scratching post. Once three posts were introduced into the environment, she was able to purchase new furniture.)
- Reward your dog for sitting instead of jumping.
Teaching an incompatible behavior will positively change your pet’s behavior. Reward the behaviors you like and redirect the behaviors you don’t like. This formula works every time.