Spray Bottles Have No Place in Animal Training
Spraying naughty dogs with a water bottle 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. Dogs are sprayed for anything their owners find inappropriate. But does spraying your dog with water work?
It’s a new day, and 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, spraying your dog with water does not work. Now, it may seem like the behavior has stopped, but punishment provides a temporary result. When working with dog training clients, some spray their puppies for mouthing, yet their arms are covered in scratches. 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. Spraying a dog or cat with a spray bottle does not work.
Why It Doesn’t 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.
What to Do Instead
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.