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Thursday, April 3, 2014

When Someone Says It Doesn't Hurt, It Probably Does

I have never heard a trainer say, "The clicker doesn't hurt." nor "Praise and treats don't hurt."

But I have seen trainers do aversive things to dogs while reminding the pet parent, "I'm not hurting him, I'm just getting his attention." or "This is the same way the dog's mother would do it" or "This is what wolves would do." or "I'm just simulating a bite."

If someone tells you, "It doesn't hurt," stop and really think for a minute:
Are we assuming it doesn't hurt just because the dog doesn't yelp or cry or fight back? How many humans are walking around in pain and not showing it (headaches, backaches, toothaches, etc..)? Just because we don't express pain, doesn't mean it doesn't hurt.

Maybe some aversive actions don't physically hurt the dog (how do we know?), but does the action scare the dog? Is the activity uncomfortable? Does it hurt your relationship with your dog?

Some trainers might show that performing an action on themselves proves that the same action doesn't hurt the dog.
Many people outweigh their dogs by over 100 pounds. It would be like the difference between slapping a 150 pound man and slapping a 20 pound child. Additionally, the human knows what's going on and is prepared for it.
Some people demonstrate shock collars by putting them on their wrist, but then put them on a dog's neck - a much more sensitive area.

The next time someone says, "It doesn't hurt," ask yourself:
How do I know it it doesn't hurt?
Does it scare the dog?
Does it make the dog think I'm going ot hurt her?
Does this make my dog fear me?
What does this do to our relationship in the long term?
If it doesn't hurt or frighten the dog, how does it work?
Is there an alternative?
Have you been using aversive training methods (jabbing, poking, yanking, shocking, slapping,  spritzing, kicking, alpha rolling, etc..)?  Would you like to know some alternatives?  Tell us about it in the comments section below. We might have some ideas.

Email general questions to

We recommend "Bones Would Rain From the Sky" by Suzanne Clothier. A great book for pet parents who want to deepen their relationship with their dogs(s)


  1. I love your blog! Your posts are so thoughtful, and thought-provoking. I live with a fearful Corgi. She was born with fearful tendencies, but I was uneducated about how to deal with her, and made many initial mistakes. We are now on a completely different path, one of positive-reinforcement, and teaching instead of training. Though I know it will take a while to win back her trust, we are making very good progress.

    1. Thank you so much Janet. and I'm so glad you saw the light. Many don't.
      I'm still learning as I go :)

  2. Trainers DO say "clipping nails doesn't hurt," implying that that statement is false could be very harmful to many dogs. :/