For whatever reason we, as a society, have negative feelings about punishment. In my opinion punishment isn’t so bad. Actually, it’s everywhere in our world. Ever touch a hot stove? Your touching a hot stove was likely punished at some point with the result of decreased likelihood of touching a hot stove in the future. Just because I’m suggesting that punishment isn’t so bad doesn’t mean that I condone hitting, kicking, or shocking an animal or anyone else! My point is, that if used correctly, punishment can be extremely valuable as a procedure.
Now, is it my first option when it comes to reducing behavior? Typically, no. I like to teach a fair amount of behaviors to compete with the problem behavior. While I’d love to stop there, it isn’t really practical in our world. Therefore, I prefer to start by using positive reinforcement and then introduce punishment when needed. At some point, with many behaviors, punishment is a necessary part of the equation. Think of it as a bank account. Each deposit (i.e., positive reinforcement) helps to build your relationship and helps to teach appropriate behavior. Once you’ve made plenty of deposits it’s okay to make a few withdrawals (i.e., punishment). Again, I’m not suggesting that anyone shock, throw a chain at, or lie on their dog. You’d look pretty ridiculous doing the latter anyway!
I think we run into problems when we don’t fully understand punishment. Punishment is simply a procedure that decreases the future occurrence of a behavior. Is that really so bad? No. Actually punishment can save lives, either by keeping an animal in a home or by helping to reduce dangerous behaviors. So, do I use punishment? Of course I do!