Four reasons you shouldn’t yell at your dog!

For years we’ve been taught to yell at our dogs when they do something wrong. Not only is it likely to be ineffective, but it could actually make some problems much worse. Here are four reasons why you shouldn’t yell at your dog!

It triggers the body’s stress response

Just like when your boss tells you off, or you receive a complaint at work; when a dog gets yelled at, it triggers the release of stress hormones. This enables the dog to be even more reactive to scary and stressful situations. No one ever performed better due to being yelled at. In fact, most of us make pretty poor decisions when we are in that emotional state. So we force ourselves to wait until that sicky feeling has gone away, and our thinking brain is fully activated again, before we make a response.

Our dogs don’t know how to count to 10, or take deep breaths, they can only react to how they are feeling at that moment. This means your dog is likely to become more defensive, display avoidance behaviours (such as that guilty look they sometimes do), or they might become more anxious.

We know that behaviour is emotion driven, so the last thing we want to do is add more emotion to any unwanted behaviour. When your dog is already doing something unwanted, more emotion can only make the behaviour you are trying to stop, get worse. And especially so, if hes trying to make a scary thing go away, or is already feeling overwhelmed.

A guilty look might actually be avoidance behaviour!

It’s demoralising

No one likes to get yelled at, and for good reason. When someone yells at you it can really knock your confidence. Dogs that get yelled at frequently can also lose attachment to their owner, they stop trying to succeed, and they lose confidence in themselves. This means that you’ll have to work twice as hard in all your future training sessions, for the same results.

It is also worth noting that a loss of attachment can be linked to an increase in separation anxiety. A weakened bond also means they will lose trust in their person to advocate for them and protect them. Subsequently, their overall resilience, and ability to socialise normally, is knocked too!

It could actually reinforce a behaviour!

When a dog barks (yells) for territorial reasons he is trying to achieve a few things. One of those is to rally his pack. The job of a watchdog is to be alert to any potential threat and let everyone know when there might be a situation emerging. He can’t defend the territory by himself, so he’ll call for reinforcements (you).

Another purpose of barking is to scare the threat away. Strength comes in numbers, and if you all make enough noise, you might avoid a potential conflict.

If everyone is barking together it adds strength to both these behaviours and reinforces them. It won’t take long before barking becomes a default behaviour choice for your dog.

You could scare your dog

If those reasons aren’t enough, then here is the big the one – you might frighten your dog! Yelling might feel effective in that moment. This is especially true if you have a sensitive dog, as they are the ones it is more likely to work on. Yelling might also relieve some of your own frustration. But the only reason it works is because it’s scary. If it wasn’t scary there would be no reason for your dog to try to avoid it. No one wants a dog that is scared of them, and being scared certainly won’t help the dog make better decisions in the future.

If you’re struggling with your dogs behaviour, they might be over threshold! When emotions get heightened dogs become more reactive. In this video I’ll show you what it means to be over threshold and what you can do about it – without yelling!

Are you struggling with your dogs behaviour?

I’ll show you how to get the most out of your dogs behaviour, without yelling, or any kind of aversive methods! Private Dog Behaviour Consultations are currently available in the Dundee area and beyond, or via zoom. If you are looking for help solving your dogs behaviour and training problems, then please get in touch!


I have more than 15 years experience solving all kinds of canine behaviour problems, at home and in rescue. A bad experience with a old fashioned dog trainer inspired me to learn more about dog behaviour, and it is because of him, that I wall never use harsh methods when training and rehabilitating dogs.

I work privately with clients in Dundee and the surrounding area with dogs of all ages, breeds and issues including anxiety, aggression and hyperactivity.

In 2009 I was proud to publish a book about dog behaviour and training. How to be the Perfect Pack Leader (by Caroline Jenkins) remains popular today and a follow up is expected very shortly.

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