Webster's Dictionary, which lurks deep within E2, defines the word cane but not caning. Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, however, has a separate entry for caning, which summarizes to this:
  1. To beat with a cane
  2. To weave or furnish with cane
I'm not much into weaving and furnishing; my interests turned at an early age toward punishment, corporal punishment and spanking, in that order of specificity. Hence, what follows is a brief treatise on definition (1).

There used to be a time when corporal punishment was far more common: The dark ages saw much beating and flogging as judicial punishment for various petty crimes, but also as domestic discipline for servants in feudal homes. Since the Renaissance, such methods have gradually withdrawn mostly to countries under Muslim religious rule. However, corporal punishment was until fairly recently viewed as an effective means of chastizing children and youths in their rearing and education. While corporal punishment appears to have had its heyday in Victorian England, British school chums of mine report having been subjected to a birching as late as the 1970's.

While punitive beatings may be applied with a variety of instruments, the single most popular weapon (for as such it can be considered, since its intent is to inflict harm) in England was the cane. A variety of plant stalks have been used as canes, but the ones in most widespread use were of rattan or bamboo. Rattan is to be preferred because bamboo tends to split into fragments with knife-sharp edges.

The principle of a caning is simple: The delinquent (or victim) is struck, usually on the buttocks, sufficiently often and with sufficient force to inflict an amount of pain deemed suitable by the punisher. Punishment canes come in a variety of thicknesses but most are sufficiently flexible to bend, perhaps even wrap around the target area, thus covering a fairly long stretch of the punishee's bottom with each impact. Strokes of the cane, especially on the bare bottom, generally leave visible lines on the skin which may be either narrow and red or appear as so-called "tram lines" with dark red, purple or black parallel lines to either side of a central white stripe. Cane strokes produce sensations of severe pain which may increase in intensity for up to a minute after the stroke. While the cane's contact with the delinquent's derriere is remarkably quiet, the delinquent usually has trouble matching this silence. According to British tradition, strokes are most often applied in multiples of six, such that beatings range from the conventional "six of the best" to a remarkable three dozen or more.

Although judicial canings are still dealt out in Singapore and several Arabic countries, canings of minors are now relatively rare in most of the world. However, while many applaud the abolishment of canings and other forms of corporal punishment, others crave it for the sexual thrill that is intimately associated with the act of caning or being caned. Thus we find many ladies, most of them professionals, offering their pallid posteriors for a bare bottom spanking at the hands of "recreational" authoritarians, while others pay to be made to taste the cane at the hands of dominatrices, professional and otherwise. The feelings of control and power, along with access to the usually exposed tush of their victim, give potent sexual thrills to the caner, while the pain, helplessness and the surrender of control have an appeal to many canees that is hard to describe in rational terms.