Teaching “No” in Balanced Dog Training

Teaching “No” in Balanced Dog Training

How to Teach Your Dog the Word “No”

I’m a balanced dog trainer in Portland, Oregon.  Often times when people reach out to get in touch with me about dog training, they have a huge list of unwanted behaviors that they would like their dog to stop.

Here is an example:  “Jumping on houseguests, playing too rough with our other senior dog, not dropping things, not coming back when called.”

A list like this can seem overwhelming to owners, but let me break this down conceptually to make it really simple.  You have to teach your dog the word, “no.”  Like… really teach it.  Most people think this means, saying “no” in a stern voice when they do something wrong.  The reality is that dogs don’t know English or any verbal language and a stern voice most likely isn’t a valuable consequence to get them to actually stop doing something annoying or dangerous.  They primarily communicate with body language.  So this means that we have to teach them that the word, “No” means this:  “I don’t like what you did and there is going to be a negative consequence for that unwanted behavior.”  Both “no” and “good” are what we call “marker words,” and mark a moment in time where you are identifying either a wanted or unwanted behavior.

For example in positive reinforcement you ask the dog to “sit,” and when they do, you mark it with, “good” and deliver (positive = adding something) the reinforcer – the treat.  Side note:  a “correction” is “positive punishment not negative reinforcement.”  This means we add something (a correction) to decrease the likelihood of a behavior.

In balanced dog training we use both positive and negative reinforcement which makes for a very effective way to get dogs to calm down, and proof more reliability in dog training obedience commands.  This is what everyone wants:  a dog they can take to a café and put into a down and enjoy lunch with their friends.  You can’t do that with an out of control dog and bribe them the entire time with treats or positive reinforcement if you want to have a nice relaxing lunch and not be hyper focused on your dog the whole time.

Coming back to the list of behavioral issues above.  Once dogs understand the word “no” very clearly, you can apply it to your list of behavioral issues.  In fact, what you can start to do is chip away at that list by using the marker word and applying a “punisher.”   Jumping on your houseguests for example, say “no” as they do it and then correct them.  Then move onto the next area like not dropping things from their mouths.  Think of this like charging up the marker word “no.”  Say you’ve been consistent with using a punisher more often than not when you say, “no,” now you can apply it to moments that might be harder to correct like, when the play all of a sudden gets too rough with your senior dog.  You can just say, “no,” and they will most likely chill a bit.  Or you can say, “no” and also step in between them stopping the play for a bit.  In other words, “no” becomes valuable because you make it valuable and now you have leverage.

It’s basically having good boundaries in your life… but with your dog.  In fact, I think dog training is a great place for people to practice fair and healthy boundaries.

Like I said, I am a balanced dog trainer in Portland, Oregon.  I also help people with e-collar dog training and basic obedience in Portland, Oregon.

If you’re looking for a dog trainer head over to my “contact us” page and fill out a form for a free consultation!

Take Care!

-Ren Marshall


Operant Conditioning Chart for Dog Training

Why I’m Into Kenneling (Crating) Dogs

Why I’m Into Kenneling (Crating) Dogs

In this blog I want to address some key points on the importance of crate training your dog.  I am a balanced dog trainer in Portland, Oregon and I love helping my clients with getting their dog into a better state of mind.  Crate training is a major part of the puzzle.  Dogs that learn how to be calm and spend time in their kennels usually get into a much better state of mind.  In balanced dog training, calmness is the number one priority to work on even before dog obedience because it’s pretty difficult to train a super amped up dog.  In addition, I am not training for sport, hunting or competition.  I am a dog trainer in Portland that helps people with pet dogs – and usually people want calm dogs inside the house.  I have to, number one, be able to have a conversation with the dog and I can’t do that if they are in what is called a “state of arousal.”

When I get a dog in that has a lot of anxiety issues – it’s often caused or fed by a lack of structure in the home or pack environment. The crate has 4 walls and is immediate structure.  Now add in “being quiet in the kennel” as something we work on and we’ve got a dog “in command,” in their crate learning how to relax and watch the world go by.  I also believe dogs need more sleep/naps than humans – so it’s also good for them to spend time in the crate relaxing, otherwise dogs are chronically overstimulated.

I first want to define crate training, it simply means getting your dog accustomed to being in the crate and being quiet in the kennel (ie: not barking or trying to get out).

Here are some tips:

-Crate your dog at night and in the morning you can start the day with structure (getting your dog to wait at the crate door to come out instead of rushing the door).

-Crating your dog during the day while you are home is an excellent thing for your dog – a lot of people feel their dog should have freedom or be out when they are home, but it’s great for their state of mind to put them in the crate for a few hours during the day even if you are home.

-If your dog struggles with separation anxiety, crating is super important because otherwise your dog can work themselves up in a very anxious state while you are gone. They may be looking out the window, barking, pacing nervously or trying to get into stuff (trash, eating socks/shoes etc.) which is quite dangerous.

-Being quiet in the kennel is a command – it often takes some corrections to let your dog know what behaviors are unwanted and you may need to work with a balanced trainer to figure out the recipe of what works for your dog.

-Always be aware that dogs can also get into trouble in the crate. They can be “crate breakers” which means they try to bust out of their kennels which is super dangerous and could even result in death, serious trauma and/or a huge vet bill.  If your dog is trying to break out of their kennel definitely seek out some professional assistance and take it very seriously. Don’t leave your dog alone unattended at home until you know they can be calm in their kennels without trying to break out (it’s less typical for dogs to be “crate breakers” but I have to give a warning because it is a possibility).

-Also be mindful if your dog likes to eat things like bedding. This can also be super dangerous in the crate and also result in death. If your dog eats things like toys and bedding, don’t put that stuff in there with them.

-There is a cool app called “Presence” that allows you to hook up an old Iphone or Ipad to your current phone which works like a nanny cam so you can keep an eye on your dog in the kennel when you are gone.  I highly recommend this if you are leaving your dog alone in the kennel and don’t know how they will respond. Keep close to the house while you watch them in case you have to come back. You can also use a remote collar (e-collar) and correct them for any non-sense/anxious behavior or trying to get out of the crate while you are outside watching them on your phone.

-FYI I don’t like to crate dogs more than 6 hours at a time during the day as they need a potty break. I recommend getting a dog walker to let them out at the 5-6 hour mark for a break if you are going to be gone for a long time. During the night they can be in there all night, unless they are puppies and need some more frequent potty breaks.

Hope this helps!  It’s a lot of warnings but if you can crate train your dog and get them to spend more time in there it really helps to create a calmer mental state over-all.

If you are having any behavioral issues with your dog and are looking for a dog trainer in Portland, feel free to reach out!