Dog Behaviour 101

Why SHOULDN’T You Punish a Dog for Going Over Threshold?

April 6, 2024

Why shouldn’t you punish a dog for going over threshold?

(If you prefer video content, you can also watch this on Youtube instead)

One might point out that they have watched dog training shows such as Caesar Milan, and the dog was trained while over threshold.

dogs over threshold on tv

This style of training always includes some form of punishment such as using a prong or a shock collar, or harsh leash corrections.

Using punishment when a dog is over threshold

When your dog is over threshold and therefore reacting accordingly, they aren’t “choosing to be bad”.

They’re having an INVOLUNTARY emotional response.

Think of something that triggers you. For me, that’s spiders. They cause instant stress!

Now imagine there was a spider on my head.

Would a spider on your head push you over threshold?

You might freeze with terror if that happened to you. Personally I would be running around, flailing, probably cussing, trying to get that spider off of my head.

If I said something in that time that offended you, or if I accidentally hit you, I didn’t do it intentionally. I’m reacting, not thinking!

You could, somehow, inflict enough punishment on me for my behaviours that I learned to shut down while the spider was on my head.


At that point you have suppressed my response but not the emotions that I’m feeling.

I’m still terrified of that spider, even if I don’t feel like I’m allowed to show it.

A dog’s reaction while over a threshold is them showing that they cannot handle the situation that they’re in.

Punishment may prevent them from displaying their emotions, but it does not actually improve their emotional state. It’s really important to recognize that!

Punishing a dog’s response to going over threshold is like taking the battery out of a smoke detector during an active fire and thinking to yourself “There, I fixed it!”. No, you did not. You only turned off the warning signal….The fire is very much still there!

punishing a dog when they're over threshold is like taking the batteries out of a smoke detector during an active fire

Using punishment to train a dog might make for what some people consider entertaining TV, but it isn’t good dog training! It’s important that we address the actual root of the issue, not just the “symptoms” that bother us.

If you want to fully understand dog threshold and what I do suggest that you try if your dog does go over a threshold, watch THIS next!

Disclosure: Happy Hounds uses affiliate links. Purchasing with these links will not cost you any extra, but I get commissions for purchases made through these links. Affiliate links help me to continue to offer free resources & blog posts. I would love if you used them!

Why SHOULDN’T You Punish a Dog for Going Over Threshold?

About the author:

Stephanie Rombough, DBTMc, is a force-free dog trainer in Edmonton, Alberta. She owns Happy Hounds Dog Training, offering private in-person or virtual dog training services. 

Whether your dog is brand new to leash training OR they have a long history of pulling on leash, this program will teach you what you need to know!

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