Just got a call from a lovely woman who has a young dog displaying disturbing behavior: growling over pig ears and rawhides, growling when he's disturbed, growling if asked to get off the bed… She said she had been working with a trainer, but the problem was getting more disturbing. She had gotten my name from a friend who had used Smart Dog University, and just wanted my opinion.
I asked what her current trainer had been doing to address the problems:
"Did the trainer use positive reinforcement or punishment," I asked.
"Oh, no. No punishment at all. Only corrections," she gasped.
"Corrections are punishment. Anything you do to the dog that decreases behavior is scientifically defined as punishment," I explained.
I went on to explain that any trainer worth his (or her) salt, definitely wouldn't use corrections for growling behavior. Every good trainer schooled in behavior knows that getting rid of growling is merely getting rid of the warning signs that a bite is possible. You never want to get rid of bite warnings. Ever.
Never, ever – for your sake, for the dog's sake – ever punish your dog for growling. I don't use corrections at all in training, nor have I yet to find a situation in which corrections (more appropriately termed positive punishment) are ever necessary.