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!