If you’re human and you live with a dog, you’ve probably told your dog “no” a few times. Chances are also pretty good that your dog ignored you or looked up at you like “huh?”
The “experts” will tell you there is no such thing as a “no” command. So how are you supposed to stop unwanted behavior? Read on and we’ll show you how.
Training experts will tell you simply commanding your dog with “No” can be confusing. Dogs (at least mine) don’t speak English, so they learn from other cues. “No” can come up in a lot of different scenarios, so your dog gets confused, unlike commands like “Heel” or “Quiet” which are more specific.
When we talked about clicker training, we said that dogs should learn to recognize the sound of the clicker as an indicator of a proper behavior, as well as a marker of an upcoming reward. In the same way, “No” as a marker is used to tell your dog that their behavior is not what you were asking of them.
It can also act as a precursor to whatever command it is you want your dog to obey, but then again, why not just say the command in the first place, right?
Does this mean that you should stop telling your dog “No”?
Teaching your dog the meaning of “No” is common to both new and seasoned dog parents, especially if their dogs are new to training. The idea behind the word is that you’re telling your dog that, “That’s not the behavior I want from you.” So once your dog knows the meaning of “No”, it makes it easier for you to guide them into doing the right behavior that you’re commanding them to do.
For instance, you’re teaching your dog to sit, but instead of sitting, your dog ends up lying flat on their back. A simple “No” will tell your dog that that’s not what “Sit” means.
In another scenario, your excited dog jumps on you as you arrive home. You tell your dog “No” before commanding him to “Sit”, so you’re making it clear that jumping is a no-no and that sitting is the ideal behavior.
As you can see, both ways, you’re getting your message across. And sometimes it is necessary for your dog to know that he is misbehaving and that you expect something different from him.
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So while many experts go against telling your dog “No” as it’s confusing and is not really a command, we think that at times it’s necessary. Particularly when you’re just starting out with training and your dog doesn’t know any other commands yet.
After all, how can you tell your dog to “Sit” when he doesn’t know what that command means yet, right?
So as a precursor to the more specific and varied commands that you can train your dog to learn, you can teach them the meaning of “No”, if only to keep them from misbehaving.
For this training command, you’re just going to need treats. These will act as both motivator and reward, and help drive your point home.
You start off by putting a treat in your hand. You’ll want the treat to catch your dog’s attention, so choose one that is tasty or appealing enough.
Then, open your hand with the treat inside. Naturally, your dog will attempt to get it from your hand. Before your dog succeeds though, say “No” in a firm (but not angry) voice, then close your hand back up.
Resume training after your dog has stopped attempting to get the treat in your hand or after your dog has calmed down. Repeat the process about 5 times, then take a break after 5 minutes of training.
Continue training until your dog stops as soon as you say “No”. Usually, most dogs will be able to get the idea after 5-10 training sessions. Your dog may take longer or shorter than this, so remember to be patient as not all dogs learn at the same pace.
So when do you reward your dog? After your dog stops attempting to get to the treat, you can give a command that they already know like “Sit”, and then rewarding that behavior (if they do it correctly!).
You can also praise and give them affection when they stop trying to get to the treat when you say “No.”
Here’s a video to illustrate.
Teaching your dog the “No” command is something that will come in handy any time. While it’s not advisable to use regularly, especially if your dog knows other commands, it can be necessary when you’re just starting out with training your dog.
So should you stop telling your dog “No”? Maybe…
If your dog knows and obeys more specific commands, then use those instead. But if your dog is still a newbie to obedience training, saying “No” can help get your message across better.
What behaviors of your dog do you plan to practice saying “No” to? Comment below, we’d love to hear your DIY Dog Training stories!