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Saying "No" in Dog Training

Updated: Feb 12, 2021

As with virtually anything in life, humans can sometimes go to extremes. Dog trainers are no different and there are some dog training styles that go a tad overboard in their method or philosophy.

We’ll discuss just two in this article to keep it concise vs. a volume in encyclopedia Britannica.

We will start with a premise nearly everyone can most likely agree on.

Notice we said: Nearly everyone and Most likely…. That was not poor grammar, although it would most likely qualify as a “D” in English class, it is because no two trainers completely agree on ANYTHING!

Back to what most trainers WILL agree on: Communication and Feedback.

It is crucial to communicate with your dog. They do not read minds so we must communicate what we want them do to, show them how to do it and then communicate with them and HELP them do it. We then repeat that over and over and over again until the verbal que and/or hand signal is properly associated with the command by the dog.

Communication is not just us speaking, it is also body language. Dogs primarily communicate through body language. We must teach them the words we want them to know and understand and help them make associations for the word and the appropriate action.

Communication is not just a command. Communication is FEEDBACK. We must give our dog feedback through our tone and our words, so they know if they are doing what we’ve asked or not. The area we see most dog owners struggle with or not do enough of when first getting their dog into obedience training, is they tend to not give their dog enough feedback.

If you were teach a second grader 2 plus 2 and not tell them if they were right or wrong it would be difficult to move on to 3 plus 3 for they do not even know if they know how to do 2 plus 2 correctly yet. We must give them feedback. Training a dog is no different.

We cannot layer more complexity into a command if we do not give our dogs feedback during and throughout the learning process, for they will have no gauge in which to measure. No “home base” if you will.

Feedback comes in many forms. It can be a treat, a toy, a click of a clicker, a split-second tap of an eCollar, and old reliable: the word “Good.”

Here is where it actually gets controversial, yes; can you believe what we are about to say is controversial? The word “No” is also feedback. Or nope, uh-uh, or other variations of a non-corrective reinforcer.

Why is the word No controversial? It is not to the average person, but there are two training methods that focus on only positive reinforcement to such an extreme of avoiding even the word No in an attempt to 100% eliminate ANY form of negativity. That is obviously extreme and a tad ridiculous but everyone is entitled to their opinions.

The reason we have issue with trainers that avoid the word No or even a two-finger gentle tug on the leash is they fail to account for the intent. When you say No, it does not necessarily mean you are scolding your dog. It simply means you are giving your dog verbal feedback on whether they correct or incorrect. It keeps them from having to guess for dogs are not much better at guessing than we humans.

The word No simply means, that is not correct; let’s try it again. Just like the word Good simply means, this IS correct and let’s keep doing that.

You don’t have to yell or sound gruff when saying No because dogs DO pick up your tone in your voice and the tone you use can change the meaning of a command even though it is the same word. For example, if you said Come and sounded happy, your dog will know you are happy and come to you for some love and affection. If you SCREAM Come and sound angry it is the same word, but you dog KNOWS you are unhappy and there is a risk of punishment or correction for them and they may be less likely to come but they will certainly be less enthusiastic about it if they do. Tone carries meaning for dogs (and humans).

It is ok to say No to a dog when conducting dog training, it is actually better to be clear with your dog or puppy than it is to keep them guessing and confused so do not lose sleep if you say No once in a while.

What you want to avoid is not giving your dog verbal feedback. If you’d like to learn more about K-9 Culture’s Dog Training programs in the DFW area, check out our website or give us a call and tour our dog training facility.

The K-9 Culture Family

A Dog That Is A JOY To Live With!


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