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People talk to their pets every day: offering praise when they’re good, reassurance when they’re confused and affection when they’re cuddling. We also speak to animals when they misbehave. “Why did you do that?” someone might ask their dog. Or we might scold the cat – “Don’t touch that!” – as we move a family heirloom across the room.

But is it ever appropriate to punish or rebuke an animal?

When people talk about punishment, this implies more than a loss of privileges. The term suggests someone is being asked to learn a lesson after breaking a rule they can understand. But an animal’s understanding is different from a human’s, which raises questions about what lessons they can learn and what, if any, rebukes of animals are ethical.

Jon Garthoff, professor and ethical theorist, shares his insight on three types of learning — conditioning, instruction and education — and how they are used when training different animals. Read more at The Conversation.

UT is a member of The Conversation, an independent source for news articles and informed analysis written by the academic community and edited by journalists for the general public. Through our partnership, we seek to provide a better understanding of the important work of our faculty.



Cindi King (865-974-0937,