Lesson series

Does Punishment-Based Training Cause Mental Illness?

Punishment is the application of a consequence that decreases the likelihood of a behavior happening again. It is commonly applied to multiple species and is typically used when an animal behaves in an unwanted or unacceptable way. The application of an undesirable or unpleasant outcome is used as a consequence to deter this behavior. Punishment has also been termed a discipline in the domain of psychology, and the concept serves to protect the animal by preserving cooperative behavior.

We’ve known for decades that punishment can be a very effective way of changing behavior. But does it’s application cause any long-term negative consequences?

As with all approaches, the stimuli used for punishment lie on a scale. There are many different types of punishment. We will examine the impact of different types of punishment on long-term mental wellbeing.

Methods might be anything from using your voice or noise to interrupt an animal's behavior, or the more extreme end, using a tool such as an e-collar to deliver a tactile sensation or electric shock. How do we know that all these methods have the potential to cause long-term harm? Or are some of them harmless? How do we know that positive techniques always lead to an improvement in well-being? We will explore what punishment looks like in animal training so that you can assist your clients in choosing appropriate training methods.​​
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Learning Objectives:

  • Attendees will gain knowledge and understanding about what punishment is and how it impacts short and long-term wellbeing.

  • Attendees will be given tools to help them apply the knowledge to clinical cases and create their targeted case workup plans.

  • Attendees will be taken on a journey of literature evaluation to make judgments about the appropriateness of punishment for their clinical cases.
Meet the instructor

Dr. Kathy Murphy BVetMed, DPhil, CVA, CLAS, MRCVS

Dr. Kathy Murphy (BVetMed, DPhil, CVA, CLAS, MRCVS) is a veterinary surgeon and neuroscientist. She graduated from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons UK in 1999, initially working in mixed clinical practice before studying for two post-graduate clinical qualifications with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, in Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia, and Laboratory Animal Science.
In 2009 she was awarded a highly prestigious Welcome Trust Research Training Fellowship to study for her Ph.D., in Behavioral Neuroscience, at The Queens College, University of Oxford, UK. She subsequently worked in the USA as Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and Anesthesiology at the Icahn School of Medicine NYC, where her research into the long-term effects of anesthesia on learning and memory contributed to a change to the safety advice for the use of general anesthesia in children. She moved back to the UK in 2013, to take up clinical-academic positions at the University of Oxford and subsequently Newcastle University, and concurrently completed a Residency in Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia with the European College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia, during which she became increasingly interested in how pain re-models the nervous system and this can manifest as behavioral problems in pets.
Alongside these positions Dr. Murphy founded, and is now Director of, Barking Brains Ltd (a neuroscience outreach platform for the animal behavior and training community), which focuses on translating neuroscientific information into practical and useful information for people interested in animal behavior. To maximize the impact of her diverse interests and skill set, Dr. Murphy teamed up with Behavior Vets LLC in 2022 when she took up the position of Chief Scientific Officer. She is now able to focus on her newfound passion for science communication and providing evidence-based, up-to-date, accessible, scientific information to clinicians, animal professionals, and their clients, about subjects related to pain, behavior, neurobiology, and the many interrelated factors.
In addition to Dr. Murphy's primary career roles she was Trustee and Veterinary Advisor to the Rottweiler Welfare Association for 14 years; is co-founder of Ethics First (a collective that lobbies for ethical decision-making in clinical practice); is an Oversight Committee Member for the UK Dog Behavior and Training Charter; sits on numerous National and International boards, working groups and ethical review panels; is an ad-hoc reviewer for neuroscience, veterinary medicine, and anesthesia and pain journals; and continues to collaborate on research projects. Dr. Murphy lives in the UK with her husband Elliot (ex Search and Rescue handler and now scentwork and mantrailing trainer) and their 5 dogs: Dennis a Yorkshire Terrier mix, Nancy a Rottweiler mix, Zebedee and Nela the German Shorthaired Pointers, and Albi a Weimaraner.
Patrick Jones - Course author