The brief answer? No. But I’m sure you clicked on this link wanting a little bit more than “no” for an answer.
A little disclaimer first, we are Balanced Dog Trainers. What that means is that we use motivation and reinforcement to teach your dog a behavior that we want. On the flip side, we also believe in corrections…please note that word “correction” and not punishment. A correction helps to teach the dog, not punish it. We layer in obedience training, environmental structure and desensitization in our training to help modify behaviors and rehabilitate dogs. We believe in using tools that are safe and effective forms of communication with your dog. There is a lot of buzz in the dog training community about “positive only” training and balanced training. People get caught up in scary sounding words like “punishment” or “aversives” without truly understanding the actual science behind those words or understanding how certain tools or methods work. Unfortunately, quite often, it turns into an “us against them” type argument that we are not interested in getting involved in or wasting our energy on.
With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get on to the question at hand…why do we NOT recommend using a squirt bottle for training your dog?
- You’ll note that I bolded the word communication in the paragraph above. We utilize tools in our training that are effective forms of communication with our dogs. That means the level of correction is based on a few different things, the dog’s nerves or sensitivity and the what the correction is for, to name two. I’m fairly certain a squirt bottle has two modes…blast and spritz. Let’s use my dog, Luna for example. Luna is an extremely sensitive dog, she is very receptive to voice commands and tone inflection, meaning a strong NO is quite enough for her most of the time if she is doing something stupid (which she never does because she is my perfect angel :)!!). If I squirted her in the face, she would crumble. That is too harsh of a punishment for her. And yes, I used the word punishment because there is no correcting going on. Not to mention there is absolutely no communication going on between you or the dog, no opportunity for your dog to think and make a better choice. All the dog knows is that you just blasted it in the face with water.
- Which leads to my next point, let’s talk about association. If you use a squirt bottle in your training, your dog is going to associate that punishment with you holding the squirt bottle. The old “ray gun” approach. Have you heard somebody say something like, “Oooohhh, my dog is so afraid of the squirt bottle, he won’t do anything wrong when this thing is out. ” Well, great…so your dog respects the squirt bottle and not you. Dog training should be about strengthening your bond with your dog, not creating fear.
- Consistency is the name of the game in dog training (as is timing). If you use a squirt bottle to train your dog, I hope you purchase a holster for your squirt bottle because you are going to have to carry that thing around with you wherever you go. As I mentioned in the point above, your dog is “respecting,” okay, let’s call it what it really is, your dog is more than likely fearful of the squirt bottle. What will happen when you forget your squirt bottle?
- Timing. When correcting a dog, you need to correct the dog in the exact moment that your dog does whatever you are correcting it for, not 5 seconds later. The association needs to be clear. How long is it going to take for you to aim and fire your squirt bottle at your dog?
- Lastly, let’s talk a little about respect. I don’t know about you, but I respect my dogs. Probably more than I respect a lot of people. I would never do anything to them that I wouldn’t do to myself. I can guarantee you that I wouldn’t want to be blasted in the face with a squirt bottle. I would want somebody to show me what is right, what is expected and let me know when I am doing something wrong. Not only that, but allow me to make a choice on what to do. Dogs are intelligent little beings, give them the respect and credit they are due.
In my opinion squirt bottles are an out-of-date, ineffective and inhumane form of training. If you are working with a dog trainer that has told you to use a squirt bottle on your dog, my advice is to find yourself a new dog trainer.